“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:19–20, NIV 1984).
[Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34, NIV 1984).
My Musings – In an instant, at the stroke of midnight, we let go of 2022 and took on 2023. We will hold on to vestiges of it as we continue to date checks and documents with 2022 for a while, but that does not change the fact that 2022 is gone and it is now 2023. No going back. Must go forward.
In a similar vein, “come follow me” involves both letting go and taking on. A specific instant where we “left [our] nets” and “[took] up [our] cross.” Not every Christian will be able to pinpoint the exact instant this happened, but it did. Once we were lost, but now we are found. Once we were the old man (woman) and now we are a new man (woman).
It was not a process; it was an event. Certainly, there was some preparation that was involved to get us to that point. And it is here that the analogy with the new year breaks down. There was no stopping the new year. It just happened. The “old [had] gone, the new [had] come.” The new man (woman) took an act of will. A choice. A decision. And voila, “if anyone is in Christ [made the choice], he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 1984).
Out with the old “left their nets” in with the new “[took] up [their] cross.” The stroke of midnight. The big event. What’s next? The new “year.” “Follow me.” A lifelong process of being transformed into the likeness of the One we left our “nets” for. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2, NIV 1984). There may (will) be vestiges of the old man (woman) that pop up on occasion (perhaps often), but there is no going back. Following Jesus is taking us in the other direction.
To “deny [oneself]” will not always result is a change in vocation, as it did for those fishermen. But it will always take us in that other direction. Leaving behind, or at least valuing them differently, the things of this world that are so important to those who have not “left their nets.“ “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:16–17, NIV 1984). If those worldly desires are not passing away (albeit with those occasional lapses), we should seriously question if we never left the “old year” behind.
My Advice – For those who have not yet chosen. It does not happen as a matter of course, or as the bells toll at midnight. One must choose to change the course. To follow Him. And if not, “send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” (John Donne).
For those who have chosen. “Each man’s death [apart from Christ] diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.” (John Donne). So, “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:19–20, NIV 1984).
Inspired by (stolen from) Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s communion reflections.