The Leader of the Church - Radical

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The Leader of the Church

Churches need leaders who are faithful to the gospel, but we can’t forget who the church’s actual leader is––Jesus Christ. When we pause to reflect on who Jesus is, then it only makes sense that we would want to submit to His plan and trust in His power to carry out the church’s mission. Based on Matthew 4:18–22, David Platt encourages the church to look to Christ and His gospel as we seek to make disciples of all nations.

If you have a Bible—and I hope you do—I invite you to open your Bible to Matthew 4. It’s good to be together around God’s Word. My heart is definitely full today. In the process of preaching here over these last eight months, I’ve begun to love and feel a part of this church. But in light of the fact that I’ve been serving in an interim capacity, I haven’t felt the freedom to speak in terms of “us” as the church. Even last week, in light of the vote to come, I was trying to be careful to exhort “you” as the church, more than speaking about “us,” because you obviously could have decided “not us” this past Wednesday night. But by God’s grace it’s now “us.” 

There’s so much on my heart that I want to share with us, but first and foremost I want to say that I am the least deserving person to be a follower of Christ, much less to be a pastor in any church, especially this church.  I am completely humbled and honored by the grace God has shown me through you in giving me this privilege. I want to serve you in a way that is good for you and glorifying to Him.

Which leads right into the text I want us to look at today. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s dive right in. It’s a pretty basic text, but it summarizes in so many ways what I most want to say and what I believe God is saying to us, at on least my first Sunday as teaching pastor here. So I want us to read Matthew 4:18–22, and then based upon this word from God, I want to show you something that we—we in this church—can never forget. This one reality we can never forget in the church then will lead us to three prayers I’m convinced we must constantly pray for the church, based on what we see here in God’s Word. So let’s hear His Word. 

Matthew 4:18–22:

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] 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. 

So this is the initial invitation we see in the Bible for people to follow Jesus. Two simple words, “Follow Me,” totally turned the lives of these four men upside down, eight other disciples who would come after them, and literally billions of people in the world—including my life and thousands of lives across this church. 

One Reality We Can Never Forget in the Church – Our Leader is Jesus

All of that leads to one reality we can never forget as a church: Jesus is our Leader. Our Leader is Jesus. We are His followers. He is our Leader. Now, that seems pretty basic, but I want to remind us how huge this is in our lives and how significant this is in the church. 

So first, think about how huge this is in our lives personally. Just think about who the “Me” is here Who’s being followed. This is only the fourth chapter of Matthew—the fourth chapter of the entire New Testament, the part of the Bible that introduces us physically to Jesus. And already, in four chapters, Matthew has given us a stunning picture of Who Jesus is. I want to show you this real quickly, because these first four chapters in Matthew are like a diamond. Matthew is introducing Jesus to us, and in a sense it’s like he’s turning a diamond in different directions, exposing various dimensions of light and color and beauty from different angles.

Up to this point in the book of Matthew, I count at least 20 different pictures that Matthew gives us. I want to hit them real quickly. Just turn a couple pages back to Matthew 1:1 and see this: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” There are four pictures of Jesus right there in that first verse:

  1. Jesus is the Savior. So it’s the book of the genealogy of Jesus. That’s what His name means: the One Who will save us from our sins. He’s the Savior. 
  2. Jesus is the Messiah. He’s Jesus Christ. Christ is not His last name. It means the Promised One. This is the One promised throughout the Old Testament Who has come. 
  3. Jesus is the son of David. He’s from the kingly line of David. That takes us all the way back to 1 Samuel in the Old Testament.
  4. Jesus is the Son of Abraham. Matthew takes us all the way back to Genesis, the very beginning of the Bible—to Abraham, the father of the people of Israel.

So that’s a loaded first verse. And it’s followed then by a genealogy that shows how everyone and everything in the Old Testament was pointing forward to Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. So that’s picture number five.

  1. Jesus is the center of history. Everything in all of history was pointing forward to Jesus, and everything in all of history since then has pointed back to Jesus. Jesus is at the center of it all. You are not at the center of history. I’m not at the center of history. Our generation is not at the center of history. The United States of America is not at the center of history. Throughout history billions of people have come and billions of people have gone. Empires have come and gone. Countries, nations, kings, queens, presidents, dictators, rulers have come and gone. At the center of it all stands one Man: Jesus Christ. That’s the first half of Matthew 1. 

Then we see in the second half is His virgin birth. So there’s the sixth and seventh pictures we see of Jesus.

  1. Jesus is fully human.
  2. Jesus is fully divine. Jesus was born of the Spirit through a woman, unlike anyone else ever born. The Incarnation is arguably the most extraordinary miracle in all of the Bible. So Jesus is fully human and fully divine—Savior and Messiah, son of David, son of Abraham, center of history, fully man, fully God—and that’s just Matthew 1. 

Matthew 2 gives us picture number eight.

  1. Jesus is the Sovereign over the wise. Magi from the East come looking for a king, and they bow down at this baby’s crib. He’s the Sovereign over the wise.
  2. Jesus is the Shepherd of the weak. Matthew quotes from Micah 5 to show how Jesus will rule God’s people as a Good Shepherd. I love this picture: the Sovereign over the wise is the Shepherd of the weak. 

Then the Old Testament imagery gets even richer.

  1. Jesus inaugurates a new exodus. The imagery is clear, as God brings His Son into Egypt and then back out of Egypt as a picture of the rescue and redemption that Jesus would bring. He inauguates a new exodus.
  2. Jesus ends the mournful exile. If you study Matthew 2, you’ll see how God, in the coming of Christ, promises hope to these weeping women in Bethlehem who have lost their baby boys. Jesus has come to end the mournful exile of God’s people. 

Then in the middle of it all, number 12.

  1. Jesus loves His fiercest enemies. When you finish Matthew 2, you realize that Jesus has come to save people who seek to kill Him. Jesus loves His fiercest enemies. Jesus loves sinners like you and me. All of that in chapter two. 
  2. Jesus is the Savior King. John the Baptist declares, “The King is coming and He’s coming to save all who repent and believe in Him.” Jesus is the Savior King.
  3. Jesus is the Righteous Judge. John the Baptist says, “A winnowing fork is in His hand. He will separate the grain from the chaff, and all who do not repent of sin and believe in Him will be burned with unquenchable fire.” 

Then after John baptizes Jesus, we get a rare glimpse into heaven, where we see two more pictures of Jesus.

  1. Jesus is filled with God the Spirit. The Spirit of God rests on Him.
  2. Jesus is loved by God the Father. A voice booms from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

All of that sets the stage for Jesus’ temptations in Matthew 4, where we discover picture 17.

  1. Jesus is the new Adam. Where the first Adam fell to the temptation of the devil, Jesus stood. Jesus did what no one else in history has ever done or will ever do. He fully resisted temptation. He did not give in one time to sin. He’s the new Adam.
  2. Jesus is the true Israel. Jesus is the faithful and obedient Son Who passed the test of temptation, conquering sin and Satan. 

All of that leads up to the verses right before what we just read, where Matthew quotes from Isaiah.

  1. Jesus is the light of the world. What Isaiah has promised has come true, “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light.”
  2. Jesus is the hope for all nations. It’s “Galilee of the Gentiles”—the nations—to whom Christ reveals Himself. 

So you see the portrait of Jesus we have here. When we come to Matthew 4:19, and we see Jesus saying to these four fishermen, “Follow Me,” we need to feel the weight and the wonder of the One Who’s speaking. This is Jesus, the Savior, Messiah, the one promised to come in the kingly line of David and Abraham, the father of God’s people Israel. He’s fully human, fully divine.  God in the flesh, the One to Whom wise men from the nations bow, the One Whose birth ushers in the culmination of generations upon generations of prophecy in anticipation.

Matthew 4:18–22 Reminds Us That Jesus is Our Savior King

Jesus is the Savior King, the righteous Judge of the world, perfectly filled with God the Spirit and completely loved by God the Father. He’s the only Man Who conquered sin.  The true Son that Israel could never be.  The Light of the world and the hope for all nations. Do we realize Who this is?  Do we realize how huge this is? This Jesus is the Leader of our lives, and this Jesus is the Leader of this church.

So contrary to what many people might think, there was not a leadership change in McLean Bible Church this week. Right? The same Leader over McLean Bible Church last Sunday is the same Leader over McLean Bible Church this Sunday—and no vote changed that. Jesus was, Jesus is and Jesus will continue to be the Leader of McLean Bible Church. I know this is Washington, but please do not view this as a change of administration. This is not new administration coming in. The same King is still on the throne. 

You might say, “Well, it sure seems like some leadership change happened this week. I mean, we voted for something, didn’t we?” And yes, yes. There was a vote. There was a change this last week. But here’s how I would encourage you to think about that. What happened this week was more like a change down in the boiler room. Picture a steam ship. You’ve got the Captain navigating the ship. He sends orders to the guys down in the boiler room. Well, the Captain of the ship is still the same—it’s just one of the guys down in the boiler room who got a new assignment. 

I say “one of the guys” intentionally, because I want to point out what I trust is obvious—that I’m not the only pastor in this church. I’m one of a plurality of pastors in this church. A constant pattern we see all over the New Testament is a plurality of pastors/elders/overseers—those words are used interchangeably in the New Testament. And there’s a reason for that plurality. I’d say many reasons for that, but one of them is because God’s design is for His church not to be dependent on this person or that person or their particular opinions or unique gifts. No, God has designed for His church to be dependent on one person: Jesus. 

No one pastor or person has all the gifts in the church and can meet every need, do everything for the church. No, Jesus alone is sufficient for that. Jesus alone has all the gifts, has all the truth, can meet every need, can do everything. So He has appointed a plurality of pastors/elders/overseers in the church to use the different gifts He has given them to point people to Him. 

Practically, this is one of the reasons why I believe it’s healthy for different pastors to preach in the church. We need to make sure we’re dependent on Christ and His Word, not on a particular preacher. It is not a healthy thing if we walk into the building and see a particular person is scheduled to preach, then think, “Aw, bummer, I wish that other guy was preaching.” I say that especially if you thought that this morning. So that actually shows an unhealthy attachment to this other person. When we gather together as a church, we don’t want to hear from a particular person. We want to hear from Jesus. As long as any pastor is preaching the Word of Jesus, then we don’t think that’s a bummer. 

This applies to shepherding as well as teaching. I think about the 10,000 or so people attended this church this weekend—no one person can shepherd all of those people. We need a plurality of pastors and elders across the church, all of them pointing men and women, boys and girls, to Jesus as the Leader of the church. And by God’s grace this is what He’s done here. So by no means put your focus on me as The Pastor. Think about all the pastors God has entrusted to this church. I’m going to put some of their pictures up here.

Here’s Dale, a police sergeant turned pastor. He keeps telling me to call him “Sarge.” I will not do that. At the same time he’s pretty intimidating. Our brother has served for years doing undercover narcotics while serving as youth pastor here. Needless to say, he’s a uniquely gifted brother with genuine love for people, genuine love for this church and genuine love for the Lord.

I think about Mike Kelsey, campus pastor out in Montgomery County. Mike’s been at McLean for ten years, leading people, preaching. Now he’s leading our only campus in Maryland. Mike’s the son and grandson of pastors in Washington, D.C. Mike’s original plan was to be a club owner, until he came to Christ in college and God called him to be a pastor—the one thing he was sure he would never be.

I think about Todd Peters, our campus pastor at Prince William campus. He has been on staff four years and has attended for longer than that. His kids are in The Rock now, with two working in Access. Todd was a Navy Seal for 26 years, with multiple deployments in really hard places. Let’s just say he could take Sergeant Dale down any day.But Todd’s heart for people—specifically those who don’t know Christ—is gold.

Then Eric Saunders—three years here at McLean. He grew up in Norfolk, raised by his mother, where he came to faith in Christ. He wasn’t wealthy by any means, but through a godly mom and godly pastor went to Liberty University, Southeastern Seminary and now is leading our Arlington campus. 

Justin Orr, who is our interim pastor out at the Loudoun campus. This brother’s mind is incredible.  He did his Master’s at Southeastern Seminary, then earned his M.A. in Jewish studies—in Israel, in Hebrew. He did two post-grad fellowships and started his Ph.D. at UCLA before coming here. He reads Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek. He has written on Old Testament biblical poetry, prophecy, as well as ancient and medieval interpretation. I could go on and on. We are blessed to have all of that combined with a gentle pastoral heart.

Then I come back here. I think about Cyrus, who welcomed us here today in this room. Cyrus is from the Central African Republic. He was raised on a dirt floor, without sufficient food. But God in His grace provided and drew him to Christ. He eventually came to the United States to become a pastor in Ohio. He then became the chief strategist for Africa for World Help before stepping into a global leadership role here just a few weeks ago.

I think about Gustavo. Gustavo has been here over ten years. I’m always amazed when I’m around this brother. He’s from Mexico. He has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and a Masters of Divinity. He’s led our Latino ministry for many years. He’s planted two churches in northern Virginia and he now leads our outreach ministries locally.

I could go on and on. Here and on other campuses, there are brothers and pastors who are far more gifted than I am with all kinds of grace I don’t have. They can do all kinds of things I can’t do. I hope the point is clear. By God’s grace, there are many pastors in this church—but not one of us, including me, is the leader of this church. Jesus Christ is the Leader of this church. It is Him Whom we follow. Any pastor’s job in this church—including mine—is merely to point people across this church to Him. This is one reality we can never forget in the church. Jesus is our Leader.

Three Prayers We Must Constantly Pray for the Church

Because Jesus is our Leader and based on His words to these initial disciples in Matthew 4then here are three prayers we need to constantly pray for the church.

Matthew 4:18–22 Wants God To Keep Us United Around His Grace in the Gospel 

As your followers in this church, God, keep us united around Your grace in the gospel. I want you to think about grace in this scene in Matthew 4. So Jesus comes walking up to these fishermen and says, “Follow Me.” Now, in order to feel the significance of this, you’ve got to realize that it was common in first-century Judaism for potential disciples to actually seek out a rabbi or teacher to study under. The beauty of what we’re seeing here, though, is it’s not these men seeking after Jesus. This is Jesus seeking after them. He is initiating His relationship with His followers. 

What we see Jesus doing here is what we’ve seen God the Father do throughout the Old Testament. God always initiated the relationship with His people. It was God Who called Noah. It was God Who called Abraham. It was God Who called Moses. It was God Who called David. God called the prophets. He called His people Israel (Deuteronomy 7). And just as God the Father called His people in the Old Testament, Jesus is calling His disciples in the New Testament. In John 15:16 He tells them, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” 

He didn’t call these guys because of any merit in them, but solely because of grace in Himself. It’s at this point in sermons or even commentaries on Matthew 4 that I’ll often hear people describe all the reasons why Jesus would choose fishermen to be His first disciples, because fishermen do this or that. They have this or that skill. They have this or that perspective. But if that’s the direction we go, we miss the whole point of this text. Jesus didn’t call these guys because of what they brought to the table. These four guys—and the subsequent disciples who followed Jesus—did not have many things in their favor. They were lower class, rural, uneducated Galileans—commoners, nobodies, not well respected. They were hardly the cultural elite. They were not the most spiritually qualified for this task. They were exceedingly ignorant, narrow-minded, superstitious.  They were full of Jewish prejudices, misconceptions and animosities. Think about their leader, Peter—the disciple with the foot-shaped mouth. 

This is who Jesus chose to change the world. You say, “Well, you’re being kind of hard on them.” But the reality is it’s not just them—it’s us. Christian in the church, you and I, had nothing in us to draw Jesus to us. We were sinners, rebels to the core, running from God.  The gracious, glorious reality of the gospel is that God came running to us. This Jesus—the Savior, Messiah, King, righteous Judge of the world, Hope for all nations, Light for all peoples—this Jesus, God in the flesh, took the initiative to call you and me to Himself. 

That grace is the essence of the gospel. It’s what unites us in this room and on other campuses. So non-Christian friends who are here today, you might wonder what unites people in this church. Well, it’s not our age. Every age and stage of life is represented in this church. It’s not our ethnicity. There are over 100 different nations represented in this church. I think about all the serious conversations about race in our country and culture right now that we need to speak biblically into. But what brings together over 100 different ethnicities in one church? It’s not our ethnicity. It’s not our economics. We live in all kinds of different socio-economic levels across this church. And it’s not our politics. You’ll find Democrats and Republicans here. You’ll find people who disagree strongly about political positions here. 

So it’s not our age, ethnicity, economics, politics—any of these things that unites us. One thing unites us here as the church: we were all running from God. It looked different in each of our lives. We were all running from God until one day we realized that God in His grace was running after us, that God had sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, to rise from the dead in victory over sin. This is the gospel, the good news of the Bible. And on the day we realized this good news, we asked God to save us from our sins—and He did it. He forgave us all our sins, not because of anything we had done or would do, but solely because of His grace. And that is what unites us in this church: the grace of God in the gospel.

Non-Christian friend, family member who’s here, if you’ve never received that grace, we invite you to receive that grace today. The Bible teaches that God is pursuing you, that He desires to save you from your sin. He has sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for your sin so you can be forgiven of your sin. Contrary to what every other religion in the world teaches about God, you don’t have to earn your way to Him. God has come to you. We invite you, urge you, to receive His grace today and to become a follower of Jesus today.  And when you do—and for all in the church who have—we need to remember that this is what unites us. It’s what united us at the start—the gracious work of Christ on the cross for us—and it’s what unites us today. Every one of us comes to this gathering today in need of more grace. 

Some of us have had really hard weeks. We’re in the middle of physical struggles. We’re in the middle of emotional struggles. We’re in the middle of relational struggles at home, at work. Even if we’ve had a great week, we still need God’s grace, because there’s nothing good in our lives without it. This is what unites us—our need for God’s grace and His gracious generosity to give us the grace we need.  I emphasize this, because there is a constant temptation in the church to try to look to these other things to unite us. 

I was preaching at a conference for pastors and worship leaders in the church last week. As I was praying through what I would share with these pastors and musical worship leaders, I was reminded of all the division that has come about in churches over differences in musical worship preferences. If you look at recent history, the source of some of the deepest arguments, divisions and even church splits has been disagreement over musical styles in the church. 

I was provoked to remind those leaders, based on the text we were diving into, that we cannot expect music to do what only the gospel can do. It’s not musical style that unites us as the church in worship. It’s God’s grace in the gospel that unites us. That’s not to say there aren’t such things as differences in style or preference, but it is to say that when we begin focusing on and debating about preferences, tastes, styles of anything, we’re undercutting the very purpose for why we come together as a church in the first place: to celebrate the grace of God that unites us together. 

It’s not just different preferences. I mentioned politics. Particularly here in Washington, we do not look to politics to unite us. That’s a recipe for division in the church. It’s not that politics aren’t important, but what makes us brothers and sisters and members of the same church is not our position on health care or tax codes—it’s our position in Jesus Christ. We unite around His grace toward us in the gospel. That’s the beauty of what makes the church unique apart from everything else in the world. So God, keep us united around Your grace in the gospel.  

Matthew 4:18–22 Asks God To Use Us To Make Disciples and Multiplying Churches

Then flowing from that is a second prayer. God, use every single one of us to accomplish Your mission: making disciples and multiplying churches. Use every single one of us, God, to accomplish Your mission. Listen to Jesus’ words here in Matthew 4. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This is Jesus’ initial call to discipleship. This isn’t Discipleship Lesson #2 or #10 or #110. This is #1. Notice how from the very beginning following Jesus was attached to fishing for men. This was basic. Jesus uses imagery that was familiar to these disciples’ vocation. He’s saying that as His followers, instead of searching for fish all over the lake, they would be spreading the gospel all over the world. The focus of their lives would be on bringing others to follow Jesus. It wasn’t just about them following Jesus, but about leading others to follow Him. 

Think about it. It’s almost like bookends. This was the first thing He said to these men—but what was the last thing He said to them in the book of Matthew? He gathers His disciples together, and what does He say? “Go and make disciples of all nations.” So put it together. From beginning to end, it’s clear that to follow Jesus means to fish for men. Every follower is a fisherman. To be a disciple of Jesus means to make disciples of Jesus. Every disciple is a disciple maker. 

There’s so much we could talk about here, and I trust I’ll have an opportunity to in the coming days. But just know that one of the deepest burdens of my heart for this church is that every member of this church would see yourselves as disciple makers. I want every member of this church to realize that God in His grace is drawing people to Himself all over Washington and all around the world, and He has not called any of His children to be a spectator sitting on the sidelines watching that happen. If every single one of us would realize that God has given each of us—right where we live and work and play—an opportunity to be part of seeing disciples made.

Then the reason I added “and churches multiplied” to this prayer is because we see all over the book of Acts that if we’re actually making disciples, there won’t be enough room for them in this building or any of the other campuses for that matter. If we’re making disciples, the inevitable result will be multiplying churches. The potential is massive for multiplying churches when 10,000 people are serious about making disciples. So let’s constantly pray, “God, use every single one of us to accomplish Your mission of making disciples and multiplying churches.” 

God, help us abandon all that we are and all that we have for Your glory. 

All this is for one purpose, and that’s the third prayer. God, help us to abandon all that we are and all that we have for Your glory. God, help us to abandon—that’s the right word in light of this text. We can almost read Matthew 4 pretty casually and not really soak in what just happened here. When Jesus said “Follow Me” to these four men, think about what that meant for their lives. Think of all they were leaving behind. Just put yourself in their shoes.They were leaving behind everything that was familiar to them—all that was natural for them. They were leaving behind comfort for uncertainty. Jesus didn’t even say where they would be going. He said Who they would be with. That’s huge. Followers of Jesus don’t always know where they’re going—but they always know Who they’re with. 

They were leaving behind comforts, certainty for uncertainty, and they were leaving behind their careers. This is an abandonment of profession for these guys—at least temporarily. Now, we’re going to come back and talk about what these means for us and how it applies to us. But let’s just see how it applies to them. Stay in their shoes for a minute. They were leaving behind comfort and careers, and they were leaving behind their possessions. It says they dropped their nets. Now, these guys obviously were not that economically elite in their society, but the fact that they had a boat, a successful trade as fishermen, shows that these men had much to lose in following Christ. We find out later that they likely still had a boat and various other possessions, but the reality at this moment is that they would be following Jesus with nothing in their hands. 

They also were leaving their positions. It’s one of the things that set Jesus’ disciples apart from other disciples who would follow rabbis in that day. Disciples would often attach themselves to a rabbi or a teacher to promote or advance themselves, to climb the ladder so to speak toward greater status or position. It wasn’t the case with these disciples. This was not a step up the ladder—this was a step down the ladder. The Rabbi they were following would eventually be crucified as a criminal on a cross. 

They were leaving behind their position—and their families. The text says James and John left their father. They were leaving their family and friends, and also their safety. This was a Rabbi, a Teacher, Who would soon say to these men, “I’m going to send you out like sheep among wolves. All men will hate you because of Me. You will be persecuted.” They were abandoning their safety. Following Jesus certainly meant leaving behind their sin. Matthew 4:17, right before this, says Jesus’ sermon was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance meant turning from sin. 

Finally, they weren’t just leaving behind sin—they were actually abandoning themselves. This is the message that we know would become central for every prospective follower of Jesus. This was His invitation: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross”—die—“and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). In either the first century or the 21st century, everything revolves around self. Protect yourself, promote yourself, preserve yourself, entertain yourself, comfort yourself, take care of yourself.  This is the message we’re bombarded with all the time. Jesus comes on the scene and says, “Slay yourself. Abandon all that you are and all that you have.” This is what it means to follow Jesus. 

Now, I want to be careful here. I’m not saying—I can’t and wouldn’t say, based on the whole of the New Testament—that every follower of Jesus must lose their career, sell or give away all their possessions, or leave family behind in this way. But think about what the New Testament is absolutely clear on: all who follow Jesus, comfort and certainty in this world are no longer our concerns. Our careers revolve around whatever Jesus calls us to do and however we can glorify Him in them. Our possessions are not our own. Brothers and sisters, we no longer live for material pleasure in this world. We forsake material pleasure in this world in order to live for eternal treasure to come. 

As followers of Christ, position is no longer our priority. When it comes to family—absolutely, based on the whole of the New Testament, we’re commanded to honor our parents, to love our wife or husband, to provide for children. So nobody can use passages like this to justify being a lousy son or daughter or spouse or parent or whatever. But according to Matthew 10:37, our love for Christ should make our love for our closest family members look like hate in comparison. As followers of Jesus, we die to sin and we die to self. We abandon our lives in obedience to Him. This is what it means to be a Christian. It’s what it means to be a follower of Christ. It means to hold loosely to everything in this world—our comforts, our careers, our possessions, our positions, our family, our friends, our safety and ourselves—and to cling tightly to the Person of Christ.

Now, to many, this may sound extreme and even feel heavy. We hear that Jesus is our Leader, and we are excited and we applaud. But when we realize what that means, there is a sense of heaviness that comes with that realization for each of us, myself included. This is where I just want to bring us back to the beginning. Don’t forget Who the “Me” is we’re following. To leave behind, lay down, abandon everything in your life makes no sense until you realize Who Jesus is. And when you realize Who Jesus is, the leaving behind and laying down and abandoning everything in your life suddenly becomes the only thing that makes sense.

Think about Matthew 13—just a few chapters after this—where Jesus is talking with His disciples. In verse 44 He gives them a simple little verse, a simple little picture-parable. He tells about a guy walking through a field and he stumbles upon some treasure in the field that he realizes is worth more than everything else he has put together. Nobody else knows this treasure is here, so he covers it up and he goes back home. And the text says he sells everything he has. It even says he does this “with gladness.”  With a smile on his face, he sells it all. 

You can imagine people coming up to him and saying, “What are you doing? Why are you getting rid of everything you have?” And he says, “I’m going to buy that field over there.” They say, “You’re crazy. You’re going to sell everything you have to buy that field over there.” And he looks back at them and smiles. He says, “I’ve got a hunch.” Why does he smile? Because inside he knows that he has found something that makes it worth losing everything else. 

Brothers and sisters in the church, in Jesus Christ we have found Someone Who is worth losing everything for. Once you realize Who He is, it just makes sense to abandon all you have and all you are for His glory. So McLean Bible Church, Jesus is our Leader. May God help us to unite continually around His grace toward us in the gospel. May God use every single one of us in this church to accomplish His mission—disciples made and churches multiplied across Washington and around the world, so that more and more people know and enjoy Jesus. Toward that end, may God help us abandon all that we are and all that we have for His name’s sake.

Matthew 4:18–22 Invites Us To Trust In Jesus

So here’s how I want to invite us to respond to this Word. Worship is a rhythm of revelation and response. God reveals Himself; we respond in worship. I trust that I’ve spoken through Jesus our Leader, and I want us to respond by standing where we are and by singing a song of adoration and praise to Christ our King, our Lord and our Leader. Amidst a world where we’re constantly pulled in all kinds of different directions, I want us to trust in and lean on and look for and pursue this: to say, “No. You are our Lord. You’re our King. You are the One Who satisfies our souls.” We surrender our lives, our families and this church totally to You. We are Your followers. Let’s fix our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection on Him in response to His Word.

If you are not a follower of Christ, as we’re singing to Jesus, we invite you to trust in Jesus—right now, in this moment, for the first time. Ask God to forgive you your sins. See that He’s pursuing you. Twice in the text, in verses 20 and 22, it says “immediately” they left their nets. So today, will you immediately say, “Yes, I want to follow Jesus.” Let this be that moment in your life where God turns you upside down by His grace. 

Let’s pray. 

Jesus, we praise You for the realities we have just seen and heard in the Word. We praise You for Your loving pursuit of us, for Your grace toward us. We pray that You would help us abandon all that we have and all that we are—especiallyin light of a change in the boiler room this last week. We want to say in a fresh way, “You’re our Lord. You’re our King and we want You to lead this church. We want You to lead our lives, however You will. We trust You and we praise You for the privilege of following You. We pray these things in Your name. Amen.

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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