First Steps of the First Disciples

First Steps of the First Disciples

“First Steps of the First Disciples”
(Matthew 4:18-22)
Series: Disciples Who Make Disciples (5 of 7)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

Take your Bibles and join me this morning in Matthew, Chapter 4 (p 651; YV).

We are in a special series of messages entitled, “Disciples Who Make Disciples.” We are going to the Bible and listening to what it teaches us about being a disciple of Jesus—a learner and follower of Christ. A disciple is a learner and follower of Jesus.

I’d like to point out in your bulletin this morning at the bottom of the announcements, there is a little blurb there about free resources at our website. If you visit the website and look under the menu item “Resources,” you will find stuff we have provided during this series. Click on Growth Guide and you’ll find it, along with the “How to Write and Share Your Testimony,” and the “How to Study Your Bible” handout we looked at last Sunday. And there are also the weekly sermons there—including last week’s manuscript of the sermon from Psalm 1, along with the picture of the tree we looked at last week and questions you can ask someone as you are discipling him. Check it out later at Just click around a bit and you’ll find all of that stuff.

So we’re looking this morning at a passage in Matthew were Jesus calls the first disciples to follow Him. This is right at the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry, a ministry of roughly 3 1/2 years. Jesus calls the first disciples here—Peter, Andrew, James and John. So our message is entitled, “First Steps of the First Disciples.” Matthew 4, beginning at verse 18.

Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.

18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.
19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them,
22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

Pray: “Lord, help us see and understand what it means to follow You and how to invite others to come go with us as we say, ‘Come with me as I follow Jesus.’ In His name we pray, amen.”

This day, February 12th, is a very special day in my Christian pilgrimage. Insofar as being a disciple, a learner and follower of Jesus, I was once in a season of life where I really struggled about whether I even was a disciple. I struggled with having assurance of my salvation.

I was 26-years-old at the time and Michele and I were attending a church in North Georgia. I was working as a parole officer then and we were attending this small country church. I remember every Sunday in particular thinking, “Am I really saved?” I had been baptized some 10 years earlier, but I was wondering if I really knew what I was doing.

So I went through this period of spiritually struggle and read through a couple books on salvation and talked to various people and prayed through this time period. And on this particular day, February 12th, I left the parole office a little early and stopped by the old church there to visit with my pastor. After some time of discussion, he basically told me I needed to take God at His Word, believe that He did what did on the cross for my sins. Turn to Him in faith, talk to Him, and trust Jesus as Savior and Lord.

So I did this on that particular day, 26 years ago now, February 12th, 1991. I did what some describe as “Driving a stake in the ground.” 26 years ago this day I drove away from the church parking lot and drove home and got into my little study there in the house, pulled out my Bible, and wrote in the margin of 1 John 5:13, “I write these things that you may know you have eternal life,” and I prayed, trusting the Lord, saying, ‘I don’t know if I’m lost and under conviction or saved and just struggling with doubts, but if it were never true before, Lord, I’m saying right now with all my heart, ‘I believe!’” And I wrote February 12th in the margin and the time, 4:10 PM. And I had this record now that I could go to and say, “If it never happened before, I know it happened right there and right then!”

And I began to know the truth of this little poem by Everek Storms:

Some think so, they hope so, they trust so, they guess so,
But I know, I know I am saved. 
For I’ve opened my heart’s door, and Christ has come in,
And I know that he saves me, and keeps me from sin.
Some think so, they hope so, they trust so, they guess so,
But I know, I know I am saved.

That’s assurance! That’s knowing that God has accepted me not on the basis of my daily performance, but on the basis of Christ’s righteousness. God accepts me because I am “in Christ,” a continual learner and follower of Jesus.

I hope you have that kind of assurance. And if you don’t, I pray that today you will say, “Yes” to Jesus and turn to Him and believe in Him and begin following Him.

These first disciples were invited by Jesus to follow Him. And they stepped out and began a journey of walking after the Master. Now I want to share from these few verses three helpful truths as we continue studying what it means to be a disciple who makes disciples of others. Christians are commanded by Jesus to be learners and followers of Christ and to bring others along with them. We are to be disciples who also make disciples of others.

Jesus says in the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…baptizing…and teaching all things Jesus has commanded…”

Make disciples is pretty much the last thing Jesus said to His followers. So, as I read this past week, someone asked, “So what is the first thing you’ve done with the last thing He said?” Good question.

We’re to be disciples and we’re also to make disciples. That’s why our church vision reads as it does, because it comes right out of this command. Vision Statement:

“We exist to develop generations of God-glorifying Disciples Who Make Disciples from the community to the continents.”

If that scares you a bit, let me share some encouraging truth about disciple-makers that comes right out of the text this morning. If we were to put out a heading: Characteristics of Disciples Who Make Disciples, we would find some helpful truth here in this passage. First, see this about being a disciple of Jesus: Disciple-makers

Require No Formal Education (18)

We’re told in verses 18 and following that these first followers of Jesus Christ were fishermen. Last words of verse 18: “…they were fishermen.”

This was their life. They were not among the educated elite. They had not been to seminary. They were not looked up to as great sages of spiritual wisdom. They were common, ordinary, men. A little rough around the edges. Calloused hands. Blue-collar workers who knew how to catch fish.

One of the striking statements about these early disciples we read much later in the Book of Acts, is this statement about Peter and John. And the spiritual leaders, the sort of “Educated upper crust” were dumbfounded by the spiritual power of the disciples. I’ll just read it for you from:

Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”

A close relationship with Jesus is of far more importance than a seminary degree. Not to discourage the getting of a degree, nor to disparage those who have one, just to say that you can have all kinds of education and be spiritually empty. As Warren Wiersbe said, “Some men are dying by degrees.”

I mean, Jesus did not go after the rabbis! He went after the common, ordinary folk. And I think one of the reasons He did so is because it illustrates that being a learner and follower of Jesus does not require some special, formal education. Anyone can do it. But we do it not by dint of our own strength and abilities, but by depending wholly and solely upon the Lord Jesus.

There’s a Gospel song called, “Little is much when God is in it.” That is so true. Be encouraged!! God can use you right now at your present level of spiritual knowledge—He can! He delights in using people who “know they don’t know” everything.

The less you have, the more you tend to depend upon Christ. Amen? Peter was a simple fisherman who watched Jesus for 3 1/2 years, learned from Him, walked in His steps and so, years later demonstrated the power of Christ available to every disciple.

So after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father—Peter, later on the Day of Pentecost, this simple fisherman would preach a message that would result in the salvation of 3,000 people.

Disciple-makers require no formal education. Disciple-makers just need to learn from Jesus and follow Jesus by learning what Jesus teaches in His Word, the Bible, and getting around others—brothers and sisters—who can help them grow and deepen their faith and trust in Christ and dependence upon Him.

Here’s another encouraging truth. Disciple-makers require no formal education, and, secondly, disciple-makers:

Learn By Careful Observation (19)

Disciples learn by looking to Jesus and others who are following Jesus. The first words Jesus speaks to these first disciples are the words, “Follow Me.” Right there in verse 19:

“Follow Me…”

The disciples were invited to follow Jesus as He lived His life among them for 3 1/2 years. They would learn all they needed to learn by carefully observing Him—listening to His teaching, watching His interactions with others. Disciples learn by careful observation.

We said that’s how most of us learned tasks such as tying a necktie or throwing a football, or something like that. Somebody stood next to us and said, “Watch. Watch me as I do this. Then I’ll watch you as you do it. Then, you show someone else the same.” We learn best by observing someone.

When Jesus said, “Follow Me,” He was saying to the disciples, “Watch me as we go; learn from Me; and I’ll show you—I’ll teach you—how to be more than fishermen—I’ll make you fishers of men, not just fishers of fish, but fishers of men!”

But note the word there: “I will make you fishers of men.” Here is a reminder that discipleship is a process. Remember what we said discipleship is not? We said it is not a program, but a process.

That’s one of the many things we said discipleship is not. It’s not a program or a class that you attend. Discipleship may include a class or a group gathering, but discipleship is not just that. It is not just information, but imitation. It is a relational journey where we invite others to follow us as we together follow Christ.

Discipleship is about life. The church is not merely to schedule programs and events and host weekend worship experiences. Discipleship is personal, one-one-one, making disciples, inviting people on a journey of learning together.

So again, the phrase in verse 19, Jesus says, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Making something implies time. It takes time to make a thing or make a person.

You can’t, for example, you can’t make a cake in a microwave. I mean, I’m sure there’s something out there that says you can. There’s some stuff you can put in a microwave and after a few minutes something like a cake may come out. But it’s not the same thing as a cake that is made in an oven, right?

Making a cake takes time. You get all the ingredients, you pour stuff into a bowl, you stir, you put it in the oven, and it bakes, and it cools, and then you put good old lard icing all over it—anyone getting hungry?!—and so on—in time, you have made a cake. It’s a process.

Similarly, you can’t microwave discipleship. It doesn’t just happen by taking a class and signing a card or something. Discipleship takes time. It’s a life-long investment, a journey that begins with saying, “Yes” to Jesus and then walking after Him, a lifelong learning process.

As we follow Jesus we model our lives after Him. We observe Him and then arrange our lives accordingly. We emulate Him.

Christian author Bill Hull describes what this looks like. He writes:

I am to live as though Jesus is living in me. If Jesus were a plumber, what kind of plumber would He be? If He were an attorney, what kind of attorney would He be? If He were an accountant, teacher, business owner, what kind of person would He be?—As cited by Galatty (79).

We model our lives after Jesus. That’s what it means to follow Him. No matter your profession, or whether you are in school, or a stay-at-home mom, you live your life as though Jesus were living in you and through you.

You do that as a disciple and you lead others to do the same as a disciple-maker. I hope you are still thinking about and praying about a few folks you could disciple. One or two folks to whom you could say, “You know, I don’t know everything, but I’ve learned a few things, and I’d like to obey Jesus by making disciples of others, and I’d like to share with you my life, and share with you some things I’ve learned. We could meet weekly, or have a meal together every once and awhile and I’d like to share with you.”

Remember as Robby Gallaty says in his book, Recovering Discipleship: “As a disciple-maker, all you’re doing is pointing at the One you’re following and saying to those around you, ‘Come with me; I’m following Him.’”

When you do that you are making disciples. You are fulfilling the Lord’s Great Commission. It’s interesting that the Great Commission doesn’t really say, “Go and tell,” right? It doesn’t say, “Go and tell,” but rather it says, “Go and make.” I can “tell” easily enough. Making, on the other hand, making takes time. Making is an investment. Making is a process.

Okay, one more truth from the text. Disciple-makers require no formal education. Disciple-makers learn by careful observation. Thirdly, disciple-makers:

Believe In Total Dedication (20-22)

Look at the response of the disciples, after Jesus invites them to, “Come and follow,” what is their response? You see it twice, first in verse 20 and then again in verse 22. Peter and Andrew in verse 20; and James and John in verse 22. Verse 20:

“They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” (20)

Then verse 22:

“And immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.” (22)

You see this total dedication to Christ? They immediately followed Him. Immediately. Someone said (Gallaty, I believe), “Obedience precedes service.” They obeyed the Word of the Lord and followed the Lord of the Word. Totally dedicated to Jesus Christ.

So dedicated that they “left their nets.” The implication is that they left their job in order to follow Jesus. The Lord does not always require that we leave our jobs in order to make disciples. He may, He may not. In the case of the first disciples, Jesus was inviting these guys to live among Him day and night as He poured truth into them that they might be the first leaders of the church.

For most of us, we will follow Christ and remain in our jobs—because for most of us, our job is our mission field. Where you work is your place of immediate missional use. If you go to school full-time, school is your missionary context, if you work a secular job—good!—we need more missionaries who work as plumbers, servers, teachers, bankers, ditch-diggers. We need folks sharing Jesus wherever they are!

The point of the response of these first disciples is total dedication. They were dedicated to Jesus. They were so dedicated that, and this is seen especially of James and John in verse 22, that they were willing even to leave family behind.

And again, I don’t think that means that Jesus will expect every single one of us to enter into full-time vocational ministry, leaving family in our wake, but I do think that it means we are to be committed and dedicated to Jesus Christ no matter where we live, work, study, and serve. Total dedication to Christ and the Kingdom.

As Christ’s followers we have become part of a new family. We are in Christian community—brothers and sisters. Many of us feel like we are closer to our church family, our spiritual family, than we are our physical family. We are united to one another because we are united in Christ. Disciples don’t work alone. We depend upon one another.

We’re in the family business! We are in the disciple-making business. We are in this together. Just as Jesus called Simon and Andrew, James and John, and others, we too follow Him in Christian community. We disciple together, work together, cooperate together.

On that note, let me close with this. Listen to this from this book, Robby Gallaty, Recovering Discipleship:
The Muir Woods are an incredible forest of breathtakingly large sequoia trees. These trees, reaching almost 250 feet into the sky, are said to be the largest living things on earth. Many of them have been alive for more than 1,500 years, and they have endured nature’s fiercest winds and storms.

What is the secret to their longevity? You might assume that they have deep roots that grow for hundreds of feet into the soil and anchor them to the ground. But you would be wrong. The roots of these large sequoias only descend a mere four feet into the earth—extremely shallow for such colossal trees. Instead, “the reason for the sequoias’ sustained growth is their support system beneath the earth’s surface. Sequoia trees only grow in rows or groves. You will never find them growing alone. The roots of these trees interlock with each other, and this is the secret to their survival through the centuries.”

This is a lesson for us, as the body of Christ. No sequoia grows alone. Neither does a disciple of Jesus—page 145.

Dedicated to Christ; dedicated to one another.

Disciple-makers require no formal education, learn by careful observation, and believe in total dedication.

Let me ask you: “Are you dedicated to Christ?” Do you believe in Him? Are you saved? Do you know beyond a shadow of doubt? If you died do you know for sure that you would not go to hell-which is what you deserve—but you would go to heaven, which is what you don’t deserve! Can you say like that poem I quoted earlier:

Some think so, they hope so, they trust so, they guess so,
But I know, I know I am saved. 
For I’ve opened my heart’s door, and Christ has come in,
And I know that he saves me, and keeps me from sin.
Some think so, they hope so, they trust so, they guess so,
But I know, I know I am saved.

If you don’t know for sure about your salvation, this morning repent. Turn from sin and turn to Jesus. Talk to Jesus and say, “Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment and offering forgiveness. I turn from my sin and receive you as Savior.”

Some of you want more information here or you need prayer, in a moment when we sing, I invite you to make your way to the front and I’ll meet with you and pray after the service.

Are you dedicated to the church? Are you a member, not just an attender. Like marriage, you’re not just living with others, but you have said, “I do.” I commit to this fellowship.


We’re going to sing our hymn of invitation and response. God is inviting us—every single one of us in the room—God is inviting us to respond to His Word.

So if you have spiritual questions, or you want to join the church, or be baptized, you come while we sing and I’ll meet you up front here. Right after we pray, I’m inviting you to come.

Let’s pray: “Lord we are going to sing in a moment about following you. We will say, “No turning back, no turning back.” So many of us know You already. Give us a greater desire to follow You. And Lord, as we follow You, we want to take others with us. Show us folks around us who also need you that we may disciple them, beginning with getting to know them, sharing the gospel with them, and growing along with them. Have your way as we follow you, Jesus, in Your name we pray, amen.”

Now stand and as we sing, you respond however the Lord is leading you.

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

O come go with me, and we will follow;
O come go with me, and we will follow;
O come go with me, and we will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

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