Steven, a witness of the savior, to the church that abides at Athens. Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ for all ages, both present and those to come! For He has redeemed us from the darkness of the chains of sin, death and Hell. He is by far the most precious and special possession that we will ever acquire.
Therefore, I write to you saints, to remind you of such, lest the Lord become “less to us” in our hearts and minds. The Holy scriptures tell us of men who dared not let such a thing happen.
Recall in the Gospel according to Matthew how the Lord Jesus had just began His ministry and He called disciples unto Himself: “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-22).
The first four of 12 He called on the seacoast of Galilee: Simon Peter, his brother Andrew and their partners in the fishing business, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Our Lord had just returned from the wilderness, of which He was tempted 40 days and nights by the devil and at this point He had done no works yet, He had done no miracles, none had been healed.
Yet, here was this random man on the seashore calling out to these fishermen, “Hey, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!”
Truly, to these lowly fisherman, this man calling to them stood out. He seemed to be special.
In Luke’s account, it says that He seemed so special they allowed our Lord Jesus to enter their boat. He told them to launch out into the deep and let down their nets. Now, these men had fished all night and caught nothing, but nevertheless for this man they did it anyway. When they attempted to pull up the net, it broke because of so many fish! The Bible says that Peter was astonished and the others with Him. When they had brought ships to land, they forsook all and followed Him.
To these men, this fellow called Jesus could be nothing less than the Messiah, the one they and all of Israel had been waiting for.
John’s account tells us that Andrew said to his brother, Peter: “We have found the Messiah” (which being interpreted is, the Christ).
Jesus meant everything to these men. He meant so much that they abandoned everything for Him! They forsook their families, they abandoned their careers, and they left all their worldly possessions.
Now, contrast this with others we find in the scriptures that Jesus called.
One time in particular, a young rich man came to our Lord and he asked Him, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
Jesus said, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
The young man asked him then, “which one, because all these have I kept.”
And he named off all the commandments of the Old Covenant.
He said, “What do I lack?”
Jesus responded with this: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”
“But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”
Jesus called him to even greater riches, but the man could not see past his own carnal desires to see the that the true pearl of great price stood before his eyes! Jesus was “less” to him.
There were others also that Jesus called, but He was “less than” to them, too. The scriptures assign no names to the following people that Jesus called, but they all rejected Him.
It says in Luke 9:59-62: “And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Saints, any person who cannot forsake all for Jesus Christ is not worthy of Him. Just like these poor souls in the scriptures, many people today put various objects before Christ in their lives! For some, it’s their careers, for others it’s money, or its sex or sexuality. Perhaps, its sports, spouses or even their children. It could be anything. People choose all manner of things over the Lord of glory. The real travesty, however, is that some professing Christians really aren’t following Him. Many nominal Christians have placed this or that before Him and the Christ of whom they are named has become “less than” to them.
Some idol has replaced Jesus in the top spot because their hearts have grown cold, or as Jesus says in Revelation, “They have left their first love”.
Beloved, remember that the scriptures themselves claim that they are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. Therefore, let me use it as such for those of us who might be waning a little bit and the Lord becoming “less than” in our lives. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians so that they may know “how to possess their vessel in sanctification and honor.” That is, that they may know how to control their bodies and actions so they may live in holiness and honor. And he gave them instructions on things to abstain from.
Likewise saints, I say to you that whatsoever things may be of the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and of the pride of life that you resist. From all these worldly things we must abstain, and it is imperative that we guard out hearts from such. Verily, if you fail to guard your heart, these things will creep in, and their faint glimmer will seem to your flesh as to outshine the glory of the Lord.
Our Apostle and brother Paul said, “Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.”
Now, the glory that is to be revealed in us at His coming is not clearly seen, but we have the testimony of those who walked with Him, handled Him, did highly esteem Him and left everything to follow Him! They beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Beloved, I beseech you this day that you do not allow the façade of this life to displace the Lord in your heart! If you think the glory of the kingdoms of the earth shine, I tell you that they can in no way compare to the celestial kingdom of the Great King. It’s a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God almighty! It consists of streets of Gold as they were transparent glass, a river of life in the midst of the city that flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and it’s a place that has no need of the sun for the glory of the Lamb is the light of it!
Again I say, do not lose focus of the truth and do not lose focus of our eternal home and resting place. Most of all do not lose sight of the glory of the Lord! I warn that we are all one slip away from Jesus becoming “less than” in our lives.
Deuteronomy 32 says, “Their foot shall slide in due time” — all those who displace Christ in their hearts.
Be you therefore watchful! Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. Put your flesh to death and seek God for the day is long spent and the hour is at hand for His coming!
As Paul said, let us walk worthy of our vocation, that is, our calling. I desire that you know that the Lord has “called” you, just in the same manner that He called those fishermen that day. Amen! You are His special possession whom He has loved. And wherewith has He loved us?
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us” and “we love Him, because He first loved us”.
The Lord has called us, but it’s up to us to follow. Just because we are called doesn’t mean we will coast into heaven. Jesus said many are called, but few are chosen. They are chosen by their freewill choice in choosing to follow Him. And I ask you today, will you or are you following Him or are you seeking after something or someone else?
Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. I go before the sheep and they follow me, for they know my voice. A stranger they will not follow, but flee from him, because they know not the voice of strangers.”
My prayer is that none of us despise the Lord or His calling, that He does not become “less than” to us. Rather, that our blessed savior always be the primary object of affection in our hearts. I encourage you, brothers and sisters, make full effect of your service to God in the Gospel for the time is short. Speak Christ to all, not only in word, but also in our deeds.
The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Steven Croft is the senior pastor of Boyd Memorial First Church of God in Athens.