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The Call to Discipleship

In this space over the past few months, we have discussed what it means to be called and how to respond. To follow Jesus as Lord and Savior, or pray, or serve. There are still times where I continue to respond slowly or not at all. Why is this? And what is missing from our understanding? From his classic book “The Cost of Discipleship”, the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), explains it very clearly from God’s Word:

Mark 2:14 “And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus, at the tax office. And He said to him “Follow Me.” So, he arose and followed Him.”

The call goes forth and it is at once followed by the response of obedience. The response of the disciples is an act of obedience, not a confession of faith in Jesus. How could the call immediately evoke obedience? The story is a stumbling-block for the natural reason, and it is no wonder that frantic attempts have been made to separate the two events. By hook or by crook a bridge must be found between them. Something must have happened in between, some psychological or historical event. Thus, we get the stupid question: Surely the publican must have known Jesus before, and that previous acquaintance explains his readiness to hear the Master’s call. Unfortunately, our text is ruthlessly silent on this point, and in fact it regards the immediate sequence of call and response as a matter of crucial importance. It displays not the slightest interest in the psychological reasons for a man’s religious decisions. And why? For the simple reason that the cause behind the immediate following of a call by response is Jesus Christ himself. It is Jesus who calls and because it is Jesus, Levi follows at once. This encounter is a testimony to the absolute, direct, and unaccountable authority of Jesus. There is no need of any preliminaries, and no other consequence but obedience to the call. Because Jesus is the Christ, he has the authority to call and demand obedience to his word. Jesus summons men to follow him not as a teacher or a pattern of the good life, but as the Christ, the Son of God.

Take a look

Matthew 4: 18-20


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