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Exchange an empty life with a full life

May 23, 2019

Jesus’ first disciples left their nets to follow Jesus. Why? Well, you can’t follow well if you’re lugging around your net. And you can’t learn well if you haven’t left your “father.”

You see, the disciples not only left their nets. They left their “father.” “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 5:22). For Jesus to become your Teacher you have to leave your father.

It may literally be your biological father (or mother). Like the blacksmith at work on the anvil, our parents impact our lives in such a way that our shape is much like his. Some of that may be good. Some of it may be not so good.

Anyone notice some character traits from your parents? Short temper? Passiveness? Stubbornness? My guess is that Peter, Andrew, James and John could say the same. There were days they were grumpy. Irritable. Mean-spirited. Fearful. Much of how they learned to behave was no doubt from their parents. The same is true for you and me. And if we want to learn how to live differently—in the kingdom of God—we have to leave our parents as our primary teachers and follow Jesus in his way.

But your father may also be your spiritual father or mother. It may be a spiritual mentor or a religious heritage that has taught you. Perhaps, some of that has been good but because it is of human origin you can also be sure that some of it has been inadequate.

What do you do with that? You leave it and learn from Jesus. I did not say that you reject everything that has ever been taught you. But until you let Jesus himself teach you, you will not be able to distinguish what is good to keep and what needs to be laid aside.

Peter understood this after following Jesus. He wrote that Jesus had redeemed us “from the empty way of life handed down to us by our forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18). Did Peter despise his Jewish heritage? I don’t think so. But in comparison to what he learned from Jesus he described it as “empty.” What he saw in Jesus he calls “precious.”

The role of spiritual mentors and religious heritages are much like the role of the law in God’s history with his people. They are designed to bring us to Christ—not take the place of Christ. At some point a maturing believer will see the difference and decisively leave it behind so that Jesus can be followed.

So how do you know when Jesus has become your Master teacher? Your life will be a reflection of who you are following. A good disciple will become like his teacher.

For a very short time when I lived in Tyler a friend of mine and I took guitar lessons from a pretty good instructor. He knew what he was doing. He’d listen to a song my friend would take him and in just a few moments know the chords and the strumming rhythm involved. We went weekly. I paid my dues. He was the teacher. I was the student. But I wasn’t a very good student. I let too many other things take up the time I could have used for practice. I didn’t really follow any of his instruction. I continued to play my guitar like I’d always played it.

Jesus wants us to follow him into the life of the kingdom. Jesus wants us to follow him into practicing his life. It’s a life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These are the chords that will be struck in your life if you are following well.

It can happen. The opportunity is here. Follow him. The road you travel may be filled with some valleys. You may traverse some rocky ground. There may be some mud to contend with or slick spots along the way. You may have to climb a few mountains.

But at the end of your journey I can tell you what you’ll find. You’ll be just who you were created to be. You’ll be just where you were created to be. And you’ll look just like Jesus because you will see him face to face (1 John 3:2).

Take a step today. Leave your “nets” and “fathers” and follow.

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