Intro Video – men vs. wild – How many of ya’ll watched this when it came on? It wasn’t as funny as I expected it to be. Anyway, I’ve played that clip because the concept of that one episode of Men v. Wild is a really perfect illustration for our series this summer, Discipleship.
The Greek word for disciple is methetes, and it is a word that essentially means “a learner” or “an apprentice.” And even if only for 2 days, this is what Will Ferrell becomes in that episode.
Will Ferrell follows Bear Grylls around for 48 hrs while Bear does what he does, and Will’s goal is to do it all with him … to become more like Bear. If we were going to give it a spiritual or an academic sounding name we’d call it “bear-gryllian discipleship.”
So, what then, is Christian Discipleship? Is it simply believing that Christ died to pay for my sins so that I can get into heaven one day?
Obviously not. Christian discipleship as best as I can define it is “Following Christ through life, trying to do what he did and to become like him.” It is not simply a matter of believing, it’s a matter of obedience.
And for some of us, real Christian discipleship seems like a special call that is reserved for the monks and nuns, right? But Jesus seems to have something different in mind. Jesus’ parting words at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, also known as the Great Commission are “Go, therefore and make disciples of ALL NATIONS…”
Not a unique call for special Christians, but a universal call for literally everyone.
Many of ya’ll have asked some form of the question “So, I’m a Christian … now what?” What does it mean? What do I do?
And between Jesus implying that the plan, or the dream of God is that everyone everywhere would become disciples, and a number of ya’ll telling me that you authentically want to follow Jesus but you just don’t really know how, or maybe even what that means, it seems like the most important thing that we can be doing as a community is trying to gain a Biblical, practical framework within which we can better hear, discern, understand and follow the call of Jesus, which is simply “follow me.”
It won’t be easy … it will cost you something … if you do it well, it may cost you everything. But it will be worth it. If you chose to respond to that call and enter into Christian Discipleship you will impact the world positively beyond anything that you could ever imagine.
So let’s get into it: (Pull from Men v. Wild clip). Will Ferrell chose to follow Bear Grylls for 48 hrs. while Bear did what he does, right … Will became a disciple, even if only for a few days … we’ve already covered that.
There is one thing that became really obvious right off the bat, and it lasted the whole 48 hours; What Will wanted to do rarely had an impact on what was actually done. There were plenty of times when Will didn’t want to do something but had to do it anyway … because he was the follower, not the leader. And there were plenty of times when Will wanted to do something, like take a nap, for instance, and he didn’t get to … because he wasn’t the leader, he was the follower.
The first thing that we need to know when we think about entering into discipleship is that choosing to follow someone is choosing to give up our personal agenda in submission to the one whom we are following.
The first time I heard this principle it was simply termed “death to agenda” … In other words, if I am a disciple of Christ, then my will ceases to exist as long as it remains in conflict with the will of Jesus. And that is never an easy pill to swallow, is it? We want to do what we want to do … we don’t generally take well to being told what to do. But discipleship is a matter of obedience.
Let’s go to the Scriptures and get a look at this principle in action.
18As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19″Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20At once they left their nets and followed him.
21Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
It’s a fairly simple passage … most of you have heard it and if you’re the type of reader who notices details, you’ve noticed the words “at once” and “immediately” as if to say, whatever they were doing at the moment wasn’t comparable to the option they were given by Jesus, and so they immediately stopped their activity so that they could start following Jesus …
And this is true and a good lesson … but there is more in that passage than the ceasing of an activity in order to become a disciple.
Notice the end of verse 18, “for they were fishermen” … for Simon and Andrew, fishing wasn’t an activity … it was their livelihood … it was their whole life!
And then in verse 22 we see that James and John didn’t just leave their boat … they also left their father. Fishing was most likely their livelihood as well, but even more extreme, it was the family business.
I can only imagine that the father took some pride in passing on the family trade to his sons and then the conflict that would have arisen in their leaving, whether between father and sons or even just internally.
These 4 young men had their lives planned out. They were on a path and they knew where that path was going to take them (barring something crazy happening like the sea drying up) … but then they were called by Jesus, and everything changed.
The agenda that those first disciples had held for their lives got trumped. The known became the unknown … the comfortable became the uncomfortable … the everyday became the brand new and the mundane became the extraordinary. For people who think we have our lives all figured out and on path, those kinds of changes can be difficult.
But you guys are in college … most of you don’t have your lives figured out quite yet, and even if you do, they certainly haven’t been set it motion yet. Instead you’re in the process of planning … of figuring out what you want to do for the next 10 year, or maybe 40 or 50 years.
You’re in school, many of you with a focal point of your studying and the intention of getting a job in a certain field or with a certain paycheck. Or maybe you’re wanting to find Mr. or Ms. Right so that when you graduate you can get married and buy a house with a white fence and a dog and have 2 and ½ kids …
You’re not in it yet, but you’re getting close, right? I mean, you’ve got an idea of what you want … something to shoot for … especially you, upperclassmen. And freshmen, give it a few years, you’ll be in the same spot. And its good … it’s good to have ambition. It’s wise to plan.
The only problem … is that you want to follow Jesus … and that’s a dangerous thing to do if you’ve got a plan. Because the first thing that we need to know when we think about entering into discipleship is that choosing to follow someone is choosing to give up our personal agenda in submission to the one whom we are following.
Is this raising a feeling of tension in any of you? Am I effectively scaring ya’ll away from Jesus?
So what can you do with that? Are you supposed to just wait around and not do anything until you hear a divine, thunderous voice giving you step by step directions for your life? No.
If it sounds like I’m telling you to abandon you plans and drop out of college then I haven’t been clear enough or you’ve missed something.
Earlier I said, “if I am a disciple of Christ, then my will ceases to exist …” And when I was writing through this for the first time the sentence stopped there.
But as I read back through it, something about that statement just didn’t feel right. And I am fairly confident in saying that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has something to do with what ended up rounding that sentence out. “If I am a disciple of Christ, then my will ceases to exist … as long as it remains in conflict with the will of Jesus.”
Those 12 words make a huge difference. The original sentence labels us as incompetent, depraved sinners who can at best hope to follow Jesus for the rest of our lives and never understand why … we become robots in the original sentence.
But when you add “as long as it remains in conflict with the will of Jesus” to the end, we are still incompetent, depraved sinners, but now there is room for hope that we can be changed … conformed into the very image of Jesus.
You see, Jesus doesn’t want to lead us just so that He can be called the leader … it’s not an ego thing. It’s a “there’s a better way to live and I can teach you” thing.
And it won’t just be better for you personally. But as more and more people become true disciples of Jesus, our world will become a better place to live for everyone.
I would imagine that for most people, the beginning of following Jesus looks like a step of pure obedience, pretty solidly set against your own will and desire. Because the way of the world is attractive … it feeds our egos and our base desires … and Jesus’ call says “I know that’s all attractive, but my way is better, trust me.” And what we want for ourselves will often have to go to the cross in submission to what Jesus wants for us. Our will will cease to exist for the sake of His.
But the longer that we follow … the more that we actually experience what it is like to live out the way of Jesus … the more that Jesus will change our hearts and conform our will to be his.
Our old self will have died and a new self will be raised up to life … and it will be a self who loves what Jesus loves … wants the things that Jesus wants … stands up against the things that Jesus stands up against … and the world will be better for it. This is the promise that Jesus gave us.
But in order to receive it we’ve got to be willing to let go. Discipleship doesn’t happen like this (closed fists) … it happens like this (open hands).
I like Will Ferrell a lot … he’s one of my favorite funny actors, and if he actually became Bear Grylls and stopped being funny, I think that the world would be significantly worse for it … thankfully Bear Grylls isn’t Jesus …
But even though my humor expectations weren’t met in that episode of Men v. Wild, something kind of cool happened towards the end of the show. Bear and Will are sitting on mountainside in the snow near the end of the second day and they’re just talking … and it might be the only time that I’ve ever heard Will Ferrell just being a normal person … not trying to make jokes or anything … just appreciating nature and solitude.
And there is no doubt in my mind that Will had an agenda for the two days going into the whole thing … it was his idea, all the commercials and previews for it were emphasizing all the funny parts … it was supposed to be a comedy. But as the episode went on it became less about Will making jokes and more about overcoming adversity … which is always Bear’s agenda on the show …
Will agreed to follow Bear, and despite the fact that he entered into the situation with his own agenda, the act of following changed him. Without question he was still the Will Ferrell that we all know and love, and he brought his own unique flare to the show that was great … but in the end his agenda was changed … conformed to that of his leader and guide.
And maybe you’ve got an agenda that you aren’t ready to let go of quite yet, and you may not have to. But if you want to follow Jesus you’re going to have to be ok with the possibility that your agenda … your will may cease to exist for the sake of Christ’s … and if you’re not ok with that, you’re not ready to follow anyone.
Because discipleship doesn’t happen like this (closed fists) … it happens like this (open hands).
Only when you let go are you freed up to receive the Kingdom of God.