Summary: God’s kindness urges a faithful response to Jesus.
In 2004, The Barna Group polled teenagers about music piracy. Despite widespread coverage of the legal arguments and fight against this form of theft, the vast majority of teens (86%) believes that copying a CD for a friend or downloading music online that is not paid for, is morally acceptable or is not a moral issue. Only 8% called such activities “morally wrong.” It matters little whether those surveyed attend church or not.
The same is true for adults. Petty office theft, padded expense accounts, pornography – moral failures are almost as common among those claiming to be deeply committed to the Christian faith as it is to those who are not. Our practice does not match our profession.
One reason is simply the continuing struggle with falling short of the mark. The Apostle Paul, one of the authors of the Bible, admitted there were times when he wanted to do what he should, but he could not seem to make himself: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7.15). All who seek to be godly experience that inner conflict.
But there is another issue. Observers of our times have pointed out that few people feel a compulsion to obey God. Some doubt the plausibility of a day of judgment when an account must be given for the life that has been lived. Most, however, are “practical deists” – the god “out there” has no real impact on life “right here.”
Max Lucado (In the Eye of the Storm, 153) quotes a story that first appeared in the magazine of the U.S. Navel Institute. Frank Koch tells of a group of ships on a training mission. They had been on maneuvers in bad weather for several days. Night was approaching, visibility was poor, and there was patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities. In the dark of night, the lookout on the wing reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”
“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.
“Steady, Captain,” which meant the ship was on a collision course.
The captain called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: ‘We are on collision course. Advise you change course twenty degrees.’”
Back came the signal, “Advisable for you to change course twenty degrees.”
The captain said, “Send: ‘I’m a captain, change course twenty degrees.’”
“I’m a seaman second-class,” came the reply. “You had better change course twenty degrees.”
By now the captain was furious. He yelled, “Send: ‘I’m a battleship. Change course twenty degrees.’”
Back came the signal: “I’m a lighthouse.”
The Bible claims for God a “lighthouse” kind of authority because he is the fixed one. He cannot budge from his position because of his nature and character. We will either turn in obedience to God or be crushed on the shoals by our rebellion. God’s laws are not arbitrary nor are they intended as mere advisories. They are commands, and good ones – they warn us of danger and guide in the way everlasting.
Once, early in their marriage, Queen Victoria quarreled vehemently with her husband, Prince Albert. Albert stormed out of the room and went to his private quarters. Victoria chased after him, and when she found that he had locked the door to his room, began pounding on the door.
“Who’s there?” Prince Albert asked.
“The Queen of England!” was the reply. But the door remained locked. More pounding followed, but then there was a pause. The next sound was that of a gently tap.
“Who’s there?” Albert inquired.
The queen’s reply: “It’s your wife, Albert.” Prince Albert opened the door immediately.
Obedience, in some ways, is a lighthouse issue. God is not changing course. At the same time, however, God draws us to obedience primarily by gentle grace. In Romans 2, the Apostle Paul asks if we are presuming “on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2.4).
In the text we are studying today, Jesus calls several disciples to follow him. Having entered the world he made, he begins assembling followers. What starts in AD 30 with two disciples now numbers in the billions. By observing how Jesus calls these first men, we learn how God draws us to become followers of the Lamb who are faithful to obey.
1. We Are Drawn to Obedience by God’s Kindness As Seen in the Presence of Jesus (John 1.35-37)
We live in a broken world. In the few weeks since this new year began, we have wondered together about what would cause a man to kidnap children. We have heard of murders and witnessed executions. We have agonized over the war on terror and the terrible damage by Islamic radicals. Children starve to death in Africa. Women in India throw themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre. Slavery ravages the weakest and most vulnerable in nearly every country in the world. Disease, death, destruction of families and innocent lives – all around.