Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (Matthew 4:19, HCSB). Let’s review.
First of all, Jesus says, “Follow Me.” A disciple is someone who has made a decision to follow Christ. They thought it through, have repented (which means a change of mind) and surrendered their life to Jesus. This deals with the head (for more details on what it means to “follow me” see part 1 of this series).
Secondly, Jesus says, “I will make you.” A disciple is being changed by Jesus. As we follow Jesus He changes us internally. We gain a new heart that begins to desire new things. Our values begin to align up with God’s kingdom. Our motives and emotions are reflecting God’s values more and more. We become more other-centered rather than self-centered. There is a distinction about us that says we love God and love people. Jesus is making us and transforming us into His image. This deals with our heart.
Third, Jesus says He will make us “fish for people.” Jesus saved us for a purpose. You have a mission. You have a ministry. You have a job to do in God’s kingdom. You have been created in such a way and have been given a spiritual gift that equips you to reach and minister to other people (Eph. 2:8-10). This deals with your hands.
When Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people,” He was addressing our head, heart, and hands: what we think, how we feel, and what we do. This was a call to total life transformation.
In this article we will focus our attention on the phrase “I will make you.” In Matthew 4:19, after Jesus issued His invitation to follow Him to the disciples, He then revealed His intentions. He invited these fishermen to come with Him as His followers, but He also told them that He was going to change them. He said, “I will make you” into something. Jesus was taking them as they were: regular people like you and me. Jesus was about to change their life. He was about to change what they believed (head), what they valued (heart), and what they did (hands). Jesus made it clear to them and to us that to follow Him He will shape us and mold us into something that will honor the Heavenly Father and produce fruit of eternal value.
Since Jesus is going to make us into something and mold us into the kind of person He wants us to be, what will Jesus use in our lives to transform us and change us into His image? Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus will use several “tools” to bring about the necessary changes in our lives that He wants.
Before we move on I want to be clear about something. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves” (HCSB). The Bible teaches that our lives are filled with sin and we cannot save ourselves. No matter how many times you are baptized, or how many people you help, and despite your most passionate attempts to pray the right prayers, repeat the right words, sing the right songs, give the right gifts, and live the right lives, you cannot cover up the evil that is entrenched so deeply within your heart. Your greatest need is not to try harder. Your greatest need is a new heart. When you become a follower of Jesus, He gives you a new heart. Once you have that new heart Jesus begins a work in your life to bring out the values, the thoughts, and the actions that are in your new heart. This is why 2 Peter 1:3 says, “By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence” (NLT). Jesus is going to take your new heart and bring out what is already there. He is going to bring to the surface of your life what He placed deep inside you, when He gave you a new heart. So, how does He do that? Jesus uses several “tools” to bring this about.
Truth: Jesus changes us with His Word.
The first tool Jesus will use to transform you is the truth. Jesus changes you with His Word. Spiritual growth is the process of replacing lies with truth. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17, NIV 84). The Spirit of God uses the word of God to make you like the Son of God. To become like Jesus, you must fill your lives with His Word. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work” (vs. 16-17, NLT). Again, Jesus changes you with His Word.
I like what Rick Warren said about the Bible in his book The Purpose Driven Life. He wrote, “The Bible is far more than a doctrinal guidebook. God’s Word generates life, creates faith, produces change, frightens the Devil, causes miracles, heals hurts, builds character, transforms circumstances, imparts joy, overcomes adversity, defeats temptation, infuses hope, releases power, cleanses our minds, brings things into being, and guarantees our future forever!” (186).
God’s Word is the spiritual nourishment you must have to fulfill your purpose. The Bible is the milk, bread, solid food, and sweet dessert for your soul (1 Peter 2:2; Matthew 4:4; 1 Corinthians 3:2; Psalm 119:103). This four-course meal is the Spirit’s menu for spiritual strength and growth. Peter advises us, “Like newborn infants, desire the unadulterated spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2, HCSB).
Jesus is going to take His truth, His Word and change your mind. He is going to renew your mind with His Word so you start thinking the way you need to start thinking about you, about others, and about Him. By giving us the truth Jesus is keeping His promise when He said, “Follow Me, I will make you….”
Trials: Jesus changes us with our problems.
Another tool Jesus uses to bring about change in your life is your problems. God has a purpose behind every problem. He uses circumstances to develop your character.
Jesus warned you that you would have problems in the world (John 16:33). No one is immune to pain or insulated from suffering, and no one gets to skate through life problem-free. Life is a series of problems. Every time you solve one, another is waiting to take its place. Not all of them are big, but all are significant in God’s growth process for you. Peter assures you that problems are normal. Peter writes, “Don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12, NLT).
God uses trials and problems to draw you closer to Himself. Psalm 34 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NLT). Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days – when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you are out of options, when the pain is great – and you turn to God alone. It is during suffering that you learn to pray your most authentic, heartfelt, honest-to-God prayers. When you are in pain, you don’t have the energy for superficial prayers.
God could have kept Joseph out of jail, kept Daniel out of the lion’s den, kept Jeremiah from being tossed into a slimy pit, kept Paul from being shipwrecked three times, and kept the three Hebrew young men from being thrown into the blazing furnace – but He didn’t (Genesis 39:20-22; Daniel 6:16-23; Jeremiah 38:6; 2 Corinthians 11:25; Daniel 3:1-26). He let those problems happen, and every one of those persons was drawn closer to God as a result.
Problems force you to look to God and depend on Him instead of yourself. Listen to what Paul said about some problems he went through in the province of Asia: “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God” (2 Cor. 1:8-9, NLT). You will never know that God is all you need until God is all you’ve got.
Because God is sovereignly in control, accidents are just incidents in God’s good plan for you. Because every day of your life was written on God’s calendar before you were born (Psalm 139:16), everything that happens to you has spiritual significance. Everything! Romans 8:28-29 explains why: “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son” (NLT).
When troubles come into your life, remember that God is going to use that problem to mold and make you “to become more like His Son.” By using the troubles in your life to transform you, Jesus is keeping His promise when He said, “Follow Me, I will make you….”
Talking: Jesus changes us through prayer.
Jesus also uses prayer to change you. Your conversations with God have more impact on you and others than you realize. There are numerous examples of this, but I want to give you at least one. Paul tells the Philippian believers what he is praying for them. When you read this, listen to the life transformation language, listen for the concepts of change. He writes, “And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can determine what really matters and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11, HCSB). We are told the prayers of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16). We need to pray for each other’s spiritual growth and transformation. The devil and his kingdom of darkness does not want anyone becoming more like Christ, more loving, more discerning, more aware of what really matters, more pure or more blameless. We need to have fewer prayers that say “comfort me” to more “conform me” prayers. Less “help me feel good” prayers to “use this to make me more like You” prayers. Jesus is going to use our prayers for each other to bring about change in our lives. He is going to use our prayers to make us into who He wants us to be. Through these prayers Jesus is keeping His promise when He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you….”
Teachers: Jesus changes us through spiritual leaders.
A fourth tool Jesus uses to transform you is teachers. God wants you to have relationships with other believers who can teach, train, equip, and disciple you in the Word of God and help equip you to become the person God wants you to become so you can do what God has designed you to do. God is going to use other people to bring about change in your life. Some examples include:
- Spiritual Teachers: God’s Word says, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12, NLT). To help bring about the transformation in your life place yourself under good Bible teaching. Teaching which points out Biblical truth and the application of that truth.
- Spiritual Advisors: Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise” (NIV 84). Jesus is going to make you wise as you listen to advice and accept instruction from godly counsel in your life. This may come in the form of a godly friend, someone you respect in the church, from a Christian book or a conference.
- Spiritual leadership: Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (HCSB). The Bible has a lot to say TO spiritual leaders of the church and ABOUT them. Let me point out a couple of things from this passage. Godly leadership is to “watch over your soul.” The “soul” includes three things: your mind, your emotions, and your will. As pastors, we pay attention to how you think about things, how you feel about things, and how you decide to handle things. That gives us an indication of where you are spiritually. That gives us an indication of what we need to address to help you grow spiritually. Watching over a soul involves watching how a person is doing spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. You are to “obey” and “submit” to godly leadership. When Scripture calls you to obey your leaders and submit to them, it is not talking about being a doormat. It’s talking about obeying the things they teach you and the methods of ministry they call the church to implement. If you don’t follow godly leadership the Bible says “that would be unprofitable for you.” This means you will not benefit from the church’s leadership. This one aspect of God transforming you through His leadership in the local church will be unprofitable to you. If you are not careful, you will listen to hundreds of sermons over your lifetime and not change at all.
Obviously, God is going to use more than teachers, advisors, and spiritual leadership in your life to teach you. For some of you, God will use parents, friends, coworkers, and sometimes strangers to teach you something you need to know. God is going to place people in your life to encourage you, correct you, inspire you, rebuke you, teach you and equip you. As God uses these people in your life He is molding how you think, how you feel, and how you act. He is transforming you. He is molding you. He is making you into the person He wants you to be. Through these various people Jesus is keeping His promise, “Follow Me, and I will make you….”
Training: Jesus changes us through discipline.
Another tool Jesus uses to transform you is training. This is also known as discipline. This is where Jesus lovingly corrects where you are out of alignment spiritually. This is where Jesus disciplines us when we rebel against Him or sin against Him. When the Heavenly Father is disciplining us He is really training us.
- Hebrews 12:6 says, “The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives” (HCSB). This is discipline and punishment completely based on God’s love and care for us. He is doing this out of love, not anger or revenge.
- Hebrews 12:10 says, “For they [earthly fathers] disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He [Heavenly Father] does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness” (HCSB). “Holiness” means to be separated from sin. God disciplines you in order to train you and teach you how to live a life that is separated from sin. You are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. He does this for your “benefit.”
One of the ways Jesus makes you into the person He wants you to be is through loving discipline, spiritual training, and godly punishment. Through the loving discipline of your heavenly Father, Jesus is keeping His promise when He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you….”
Time: Jesus changes us over time.
Another tool Jesus uses to transform you is time. Jesus changes us over time. The disciples were not changed instantly into the courageous men who would testify to Jesus and eventually be willing to give up their own lives for Him. The Holy Spirit had to do a work on them using God’s truth, the troubles they went through, God’s discipline, and prayer to name a few. But it would happen over time.
Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life. Referring to this process, Paul said in Ephesians 4:13, “This will continue until we all… will be mature in the Lord” (NLT; See also Philippians 1:6; Colossians 3:10; 2 Cor. 3:18). You are a work in progress.
Why does spiritual growth take so long? We are slow learners. We often have to relearn a lesson several times to really get it. We have a lot to unlearn. Bad habits and unhealthy thoughts develop over years. It will take time to unlearn that stuff. We are afraid to humbly face the truth about ourselves. The truth will set us free, but it usually makes us miserable at first. When God’s truth shines into your heart and reveals to you how selfish you are, how greedy you really are, or how stubborn and unteachable you have become it hurts. People don’t want to go there. We are afraid to face the truth about ourselves. It takes time before you can be honest with yourself. Habits take time to develop. A habit is something you do habitually. You can’t say you are a kind person until you are habitually kind. You are kind without thinking about it, because it’s a habit. Habits take time.
Jesus promised that over time, as you go through the troubles, as you pray and others pray for you, as you receive God’s loving discipline, as you are exposed to God’s truth, and receive good Bible teaching He will make you into the kind of person He wants you to be. He will bring out that divine nature that He planted in you at your salvation.
Jesus is not going to give up on you. Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (NLT). Jesus is committed to bringing the gold and the harvest to the surface of your life.
Jesus promised, “Follow Me, and I will make you…” into what I want you to be but it will take time.
Thinking: Jesus changes us by transforming our mind.
Another tool that Jesus will use to transform you is your thinking. Jesus changes us by transforming our mind. Even though this overlaps with some of the other tools I want separate this one for emphasis. What you think and how you think is very important to Jesus. To change your life, you must change the way you think. Behind everything you do is a thought. Every behavior is motivated by a belief, and every action is prompted by an attitude. God tells us this in Proverbs 4:23, “Guard your heart [mind] above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (NLT). Your mind and thoughts are the rudder of your life, the steering wheel of where you go in life.
Listen carefully to Romans 12:2 which says, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (NLT). You cannot live a new life without new thoughts. Part of our transformation is having our minds renewed. Based on God’s Word you begin changing the way you think about God, about heaven, about marriage, money, love, hell, work, authority, submission, and everything else.
Through changing the way you think Jesus is keeping His promise when He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you….”
Togetherness: Jesus changes us in community.
The final tool I want to mention that Jesus will use to transform you is togetherness. Jesus changes you in community. Those times you are praying with others, doing ministry with others, and discussing God’s Word with them. Those are moments God is chipping away and molding you into the person He has created you to be. When you are in a community of believers you get to experience the impact of all those “one another” statements in the Bible: love one another, forgive one another, encourage one another, etc. One of those “one another” passages is in Hebrews 10:24 which commands, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT).
The Bible offers many compelling reasons for being committed and active in a local fellowship of Jesus followers. Here are a few.
- First, a church family identifies you as a genuine believer. It’s difficult to prove you are a follower of Jesus if you are not committed to any specific group of disciples. Jesus said in John 13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples” (NLT). When we come together in love as a church family from different backgrounds, race, and social status, it is a powerful witness to the world. You are not the Body of Christ on your own. You need others to express that. Together, not separated, we are His Body.
- Second, a church family moves you out of self-centered isolation. The local church is the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s family. It is a lab for practicing unselfish, sympathetic love. As a participating member you learn to care about others and share the experiences of others. Listen to what the Bible says about the different parts of the church body in 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad” (NLT). Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers can we learn real fellowship and experience the New Testament truth of being connected and dependent on each other.
- Third, a church family helps you develop spiritual muscle. You will never grow to maturity just by attending worship services and being a passive spectator. Only participation in the full life of a local church builds spiritual muscle. Ephesians 4:16 says, “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (NLT). Over fifty times in the New Testament the phrase “one another” or “each other” is used. We are commanded to love each other, pray for each other, encourage each other, admonish each other, greet each other, serve each other, teach each other, accept each other, honor each other, bear each other’s burdens, forgive each other, be devoted to each other, and many other mutual tasks. This is Biblical membership! These are your “family responsibilities” that God expects you to fulfill through a local fellowship.
- Fourth, a church family allows you to use your spiritual gift. God has a unique role for you to play in His family. This is called your “ministry,” and God has gifted you for this assignment. Notice what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:7, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church” (NLT). Your local fellowship is the place God designed for you to discover, develop, and use your gifts.
- Fifth, a church family helps you share in Christ’s mission in the world. When Jesus walked the earth, God worked through the physical body of Christ; today He uses His spiritual body. The church is God’s instrument on earth. We are not just to model God’s love by loving each other; we are to carry it together to the rest of the world. This is an incredible privilege we have been given together. As members of Christ’s body, we are His hands, His feet, His eyes, and His heart. He works through us in the world. We each have a contribution to make. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago” (NLT).
- Sixth, a church family will help keep you from getting of track. None of us are immune to temptation. Given the right situation, you and I are capable of any sin. God knows this, so He has assigned us as individuals the responsibility of keeping each other on track. The Bible says in Hebrews 3:12, “Encourage one another daily… so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceptions” (NIV 84). We are called and commanded to be involved in each other’s lives. If you know someone who is wavering spiritually right now, it is your responsibility to go after them and bring them back to the fellowship. James 5:19 says, “If you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back” (Msg).
When Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you…,” He was promising to do an incredible work in your life and to use every available resource to shape you, mold you, and transform you into exactly who He wants you to be. As God keeps working on you through the “tools” I have mentioned above you will find your values changing and reflecting what God values. You will become less self-center and more other-centered. You will discover you are loving God and loving others more than you thought possible. You will discover the new heart God gave you is now finding more and more expressions through your life.