THE CHRISTIAN’S CALL – TO FOLLOW HIM”
2 PETER 1:1-11
Alert! News Flash! Bulletin, bulletin! If you are a Christian, you are called to follow Christ! You say, “All right. But I already know that. That’s Christianity 101. That hardly warrants an alert, a news flash, or a bulletin.” You’re right. The biblical call to follow Christ is “freshman level” stuff. It’s basic, it’s fundamental, and it’s elementary.
That being the case, we should all be doing quite well at heeding the call and following the Lord. So how are you doing? Well, I hope. But do you find that knowing what to do and actually doing it are very often two completely different things?
When I was young I enjoyed shooting pool. The more I played, the more I began to understand some of the nuances of the game. I learned how to deal with the cushions for banking shots. I learned how to put “English” on the cue ball so that it would not only do what I wanted it to do, but it would leave the white ball where I needed it to be for the next shot. My problem was that while I could see the shots I wanted to make, and even explain to someone else how to make them, I couldn’t do them. I knew what to do and how to do it, but what good was it if I couldn’t do it when I had a cue stick in my hands?
A lot of us Christians are like that. We know what Jesus has called us to do. He has called us to follow Him. That’s where it all begins. We know it and we can even tell others how to do it. We just don’t always do it very well ourselves. Can we fix it? I certainly hope so.
The two key words are simple enough. They are “call” and “follow.” We don’t need to spend time studying them as we do with other biblical terms that require us to delve into Hebrew or Greek to fully grasp their meaning. But what we do need to do is study them in the biblical context in which those two words – “call” and “follow” – are found.
With that, let’s go directly to this morning’s first text. Turn with me to…
*2 Peter 1:1-11 (Please stand with me in honor of reading God’s Word.)
1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life
and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge;
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness;
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
Theologically, the word “call” (called; calling) is used two ways. The first way it is used refers to the “general call” that goes out to all people who hear the gospel, whether they respond to it or not. An example of this general call is seen in John’s gospel.
37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”
This general call is also seen in The Great Commission where Jesus tells the disciples to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… (Matthew 28:19a).” In other words, “Preach the gospel to everyone everywhere.”
But that isn’t the way “call” is used by Peter in the text we just read. The second way the word “call” is used speaks of the “effectual call.” The effectual call always, always results in the salvation of those who hear it. By the way, this effectual call is defined in Calvinistic theology as “irresistible grace,” the “I” in the acronym “TULIP.”
Calvinism teaches that lost man is totally depraved (“T”). Since no one can come to salvation of his own accord, God must unconditionally elect (“U”) those whom He will save. Since only those whom God elects can be saved, Christ’s atonement is of necessity limited (“L”) to those whom God has chosen in eternity past. Because those people are the only ones who will absolutely come to saving faith, to them, God’s grace is irresistible (“I”). He will save every one of those whom He has chosen. He will not lose one of them.
Finally, since God elects, intends to save, does save, and then keeps them, true believers will persevere (“P”).
That is, they will not lose their salvation, because they cannot lose their salvation. The believer doesn’t keep it; God does. John and Paul teach this in John 10 and in Romans 8.
27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.
29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
30 “I and the Father are one.”
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;
30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Clearly, those called in Romans 8 are true believers, the ones who have been effectually called by God and therefore, are saved for all time. The effectual call cannot be resisted. However, the general call can be resisted, and often is both resisted and rejected.
Other examples of the effectual call are seen in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Hebrews.
1 Corinthians 1:9, 26-28
9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;
27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world (in order) to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world (in order) to shame the things which are strong,
28 and (God has chosen) the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen the things that are not, (in order) that He might nullify the things that are…
In these verses we get a glimpse of a few of the reasons why God has called us. We’ve been called to shame the wise and the strong things of this world (v. 27). We may not be much in the eyes of the world, but we sure do confound the world, don’t we?
Here are two other instances when calling refers to the effectual call, that call which is only heard by believers. What follows could not be said to an unbeliever.
Ephesians 4:1 (Paul speaking)
1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.
Hebrews 9:15 (referring to Jesus as our high priest)
15 And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant,
in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Our calling is effectual because it ultimately leads to eternal life. But what, specifically are we called to do? We’re called to follow Jesus, aren’t we? That is where it all begins.
12 Now when He (Jesus) heard that John (the Baptist) had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee;
13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulon and Naphtali.
14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying,
15 “The land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles –
16 “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
18 And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.
19 And He (Jesus) said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
20 And they immediately left the nets and followed Him.
21 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.
22 And they immediately left the boat and their father and followed Him.
Just a few minutes ago we read John 10:27-30. Listen again to Jesus’ words in v. 27. He said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Once again, this could not be said of everyone who hears the gospel in the general call that goes out to all. It can only be said of those who are effectually called, God’s own sheep!
Listen, genuine Christians, true born-again believers, follow Jesus. This is not optional. If you say you are a Christian, but you spend your time, your money, your efforts, your gifts and your talents following someone or something else, you need to take a good hard look at yourself. Genuine Christians follow Jesus. How can you know for certain that you are saved? Just ask yourself, “Who am I following?”
We need to be sure that we are following Him. Back in 2 Peter 1:10 the apostle said…
“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…” How can you assure yourself?
Believe God’s Word, that’s how! Here are just three examples of the assurance of your being chosen and called.
2 Thessalonians 2:14 (directed to a specific church)
14 And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 1:8b-10a (directed to an individual Christian)
8b …join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,
9 who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted (to) us in Christ Jesus from all eternity (since before time began),
10a but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus…
1 Peter 2:9 (directed to all Christians everywhere)
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, (so) that you may proclaim the excellences of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Christian, you may be assured of the salvation that God has poured out on you! He has called you with the holy calling of His gospel. You have put your faith in it, you’ve since learned that it is by grace alone, and that it is all about Him, not you. And because of all that, you can confidently proclaim His mercy, His grace, and His love. Thus, you make certain of your calling by obeying Christ. Where do you begin with that? By following Him and Him alone!
Following Jesus will result in the things that Peter talked about back in 2 Peter 1:5-7. Go back there with me once more. You will just naturally apply “…moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
Now look at v. 10. When your life becomes rich in those things “…you will never stumble,” and not only you, but everyone around you will “…be certain about His calling and choosing you.” And so, to close out that section of his letter, Peter says…
2 Peter 1:11
11 “…for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
You can be assured of your salvation if you make the things Peter is talking about central in your life. At that point in my study for today’s sermon this came to mind: (#572)
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.” (repeat)
Our calling to follow Jesus in this life will end when we step into His presence. But what does it mean while we’re still here?
Genuinely following Him is not easy. Every true believer who commits to following Jesus quickly learns that – to borrow a popular quip about getting old – learns that fol-lowing Him in this world “…isn’t for sissies.”
When the Lord preached the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 He attracted massive crowds. They were fascinated by what they heard and wanted more.
28 The result was that when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were amazed at His teaching;
29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
8:1 and when He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.
But when Jesus’ teaching began to change, those enthusiastic crowds began to diminish. When He started to speak about things like the cost of following Him (the cost of disciple-ship), the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation, predestination, and His coming cross, the multitudes left Him in ever increasing numbers. John 6 tells us of one of things that drove them away.
65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
(But this was just too much for some of those who had been following Him.)
66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.
By the time Jesus was arrested even the twelve decided that the cost of following Him was just too high. “Then all the disciples left Him and fled (Matthew 26:56).” Thankfully, they all came to their senses after the resurrection. That is what genuine faith does for us. We come to our senses.
Think about this: When Jesus was about to die, these men proved to be cowards. But when Jesus was resurrected these same men proved to be bold and courageous, bold and courageous even to the point of their own deaths. What was the difference? They knew that Jesus was alive, that was the difference! They were “believers” before Jesus died, but when their faith was put to the test, they failed, and failed miserably – they weren’t genuine believers at all. But once they knew that Jesus was alive their faith became unshakeable. Nothing would (or could) stop them.
The lesson for us is, I hope, crystal-clear. When you make the transition from fearing men to fearing God, everything changes. Listen to Jesus.
4 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do,
5 “But I will warn you whom to fear;
fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!
Listen, when you come to fear God above all else, your faith in Jesus will become a deep, rich, and life-changing faith that cannot be diminished or taken away. Oh, how I desire such faith in all of you.
Has the Lord Jesus become everything to you? You can’t have a little bit of Him mixed in with a little bit of the world. You can certainly try – and most of us have tried, at one time or another – but it just doesn’t work. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said as much.
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (money).”
And long before Jesus spoke those words, God had said the same thing in the Ten Commandments. It is the second of the ten that says, “You shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3).” There is no such thing as a partial disciple or half a disciple.
Fearing God and following Christ just naturally go together. You cannot fear God on Sunday and fear the world the rest of the week. Let me say that one more time and change just one word. You cannot follow God on Sunday and follow the world the rest of the week. You cannot! Why? Because you cannot serve two masters.
I stand here and confess before God and all of you that I have spent much of my life trying to do that very thing. In the last year or so I have come to believe that my cancer is a gift of grace from God that He is using to awaken me to that truth.
Following Jesus requires two major commitments on our part.
The first major commitment in following Jesus is to submit yourself to Him as Lord.
John 13:13 (Jesus speaking to His disciples)
13 “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right (to do so), for so I am.”
9 …if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.
1 Corinthians 12:3
3 Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the (Holy) Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
The second major commitment in following Jesus is to strive to be like Him.
John 8:28-30 (confronting the Pharisees)
28 Jesus therefore said, “When you lift up (crucify) the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He (the Son of God), and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.
29 “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
30 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.
What is Jesus saying? He is saying that we are to obey God. Obedience is critical to our salvation. In fact, without obedience there is no salvation!
36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Two of the most popular modern translations – the NIV and the NKJV – do not use the word “obey” in this verse. They use the word “believe,” in place of obey. But what is the Greek word, and what does it mean? The word is “apěithěō,” which does in fact mean unbelief. But the word goes further than simple unbelief due to ignorance. It carries with it the idea that this is willful and deliberate unbelief because of disobedience – the disobedience of refusing to believe the gospel that God calls everyone to believe.
30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all (people) everywhere should repent…” (NASB)
30 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent…” (ESV)
The point is that unbelief is – especially after having heard the truth – is outright disobedience. Therefore, John can say, “…he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Genuine faith and humble obedience are inseparable.
We have been called to follow Jesus. If you have submitted yourself to Jesus’ as Lord, and are doing your best to be like Him, then you have answered that call and you are following Him. Is it a struggle? Yes, it is. Do you sometimes fail at it? Yes, you do.
The fact is that following Jesus is a challenge and a battle for all of us. But it’s exactly what we, as Bible-believing Christians, are called to do. In Luke 9:23 Jesus said that following Him just naturally involves self-denial. Our hearts may want to follow hard after Him, but our flesh rebels at the very thought of any self-denial, doesn’t it?
If we’re going to follow Jesus we need to be aware of the things that can hinder the most committed of us in our efforts to obey Him. One of those things is fear of persecution. Paul told his young protégé Timothy about being persecuted for the sake of Christ.
2 Timothy 3:10-12
10 But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, per-severance,
11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me!
12 And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Jesus said the same thing, but He added something Paul didn’t say in his letter to Timothy.
John 16:33 (said to His disciples just before He went to the cross)
33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Ask yourself this: “If I had no fear of persecution, what would I do differently? How would my life change?” Listen, the fear of persecution hinders us. But there is some-thing else. Our flesh hinders our walk with Christ as well. No one knew this better than Paul. He struggled against the flesh the same way you and I struggle against it.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing (to do good) is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
19 For the good that I wish (which is driven by the spirit), I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish (which is driven by the flesh).
20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish (to do), I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good.
22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man (the new man),
23 but I see a different law in the members of my body (the old man), waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members (my body, my flesh).
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh (I am serving) the law of sin.
There is the struggle, the war, if you will. It’s the war you and I are bound to fight when we follow Jesus. It’s not just the war against your own flesh, but it’s the war against the world we live in. But Jesus said, “…take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Theologian S. Michael Houdmann concludes his commentary on 2 Peter 1:1-11 with this:
“In summary, to make one’s calling and election sure is to live out the Christian life in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is to do more than simply pay lip service to Christ. Those who profess salvation but never grow in their walk with God will suffer a lack of assurance, always wondering if they are really saved or not. Those who grow ever more like Christ will be “sure” of their calling and election. They will know they have eternal life; they will be living testimonies of the power of God
to change lives.”
Are you suffering for Christ right now because you’re following Jesus? Are you being persecuted in this world or at work or even at home because you’re following Jesus?
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.
Let me close with these words from the Apostle Peter…
*1 Peter 5:6-11
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, (so) that He may exalt you at the proper time,
7 casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.
8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Pastor Jim Timms
Lighthouse Bible Church – Lake Geneva, Wisconsin – 262-949-1007 – www.lighthouselakegeneva.com