Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus (John 1:40-41 TNIV).
Most mornings, my routine goes something like this. I wake up to the sound of the alarm. I grab my phone and go through my email from the night before. I add things to my "Must Do Today" list on my Google calendar. I get up and shower, doing my morning prayer and my stretching. Then I get dressed and tackle that "Must Do Today" list.
"THE first thing" on that Must Do Today list is not always the first thing I do that day, but it is the most important thing to get done. It is THE priority: it is "THE first thing." It commands my focus, requires the most attention, and is the most important thing to get accomplished. As I squeeze and re-arrange my schedule during the day because of interruptions, opportunities, emergencies, and distractions, "THE first thing" has to be done.
When Jesus called his apostles, he told them that he would make them into something unexpected, maybe even something unwanted. Yet if they were going to follow him, this would be something that he would do with them. Jesus put it this way to Peter, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will fish for people" (Luke 5:10). Although it took them awhile to get the whole concept down, most of them began to try to "fish for people" right away. Some did better than others, and they blew it big time on a number of occasions, but eventually, this became "THE first thing" for them.
John the Baptizer steered a fisherman named Andrew to Jesus. After spending a day with Jesus and realizing who Jesus was, "THE first thing" that Andrew did was to go find his brother Peter (known as Simeon or Simon at that time) and bring him to Jesus.
Levi, whom we know better as the apostle Matthew, followed Jesus and "THE first thing" we see Matthew do is throw a party. He invited all his sinful friends to come meet Jesus at his party. Some religious people got upset, but Jesus reminded everyone of "THE first thing" in his life: "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32).
Throughout the ministry of Jesus, when people met the Lord and spent time with him, quite often "THE first thing" they did was to go share Jesus with others. This was true of a leper, a woman at a well, and a man who had been possessed by a legion of demons.
So let me ask us a very important question: What is "THE first thing" in our spiritual agenda? What is "THE first thing" on our spiritual must get done list?
Yes, I know we are called to love God completely and love our neighbor as ourselves because everything hinges on these two concepts. But, we can use this as a cop out and miss the heart of even that command. If we love God, we are going to love what God loves and seek to save whom God wants saved. Kinda brings to mind John 3:16, doesn't it! And that should bring to mind Jesus' words at the end of his earthly ministry:
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit ... you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (John 20:21-22; Acts 1:8).
Don't set your hair on fire and get all worked up for fear I'm going to lay the "you gotta be evangelizing, you gotta be witnessing" guilt trip on you. Take a deep breath and promise yourself that you will take a little journey with me for the next six weeks. We're going to call this trip "Catch and Release." Just like we've spent the last month focusing on the Holy Spirit, we're going to build on the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives and commit to follow Jesus ... wherever he leads us. And, we're going to hear his words of assurance as the Lord calls us to follow him and tells us, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will fish for people" (Luke 5:10).
Why are we doing this?
Well, because while there are many good things, and even a few important things, there is only one thing we can call "THE first thing"! Jesus wants us to follow him. He wants us to receive all of the blessings of being in the family of God. He wants us to have lives of purpose and meaning that make a difference in our world. And, as beloved children of God, Jesus calls us to follow him in sharing all those good things with others.
We've been caught up in God's mercy, we've been rescued from a toxic life of destruction when we lived apart from God's grace, and now we've been released by the power of the Holy Spirit into real life, with real community, characterized by God's love (Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 1:13-14). So we are going to share this mercy, grace, life, community, and love with others. We are going to help each other do the "THE first thing" — sharing the love of Jesus in word and deed (1 John 3:16-18) — so that others can find Jesus. In the process, I can't help but believe that the love of Jesus, the grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit will be a lot more real to us, as well.
Please consider the following thoughts and questions for your personal reflection, for group discussion, for discussion in your homegathering, or discussion on my blog (http://thephilfiles.com).
What gets you nervous when folks talk about "sharing" the grace of God and the love of Jesus with others?
- Why is it important that we share this in both word and deed?
- Which do you think is more important, sharing Jesus in word or sharing Jesus in deed?
- Can we effectively share the love of Jesus with others without doing both?
Read Ephesians 2:1-10 and Colossians 1:13-14 and then think about these questions:
- What in the story of Jesus captured your heart?
- What has following Jesus and experiencing the grace of God in Jesus freed you from?
- How has knowing Jesus released you to be the special person of God that you were made to be?
Practical "Go Do" Suggestion:
- Write down on a sheet of paper, the person or people who shared Jesus with you.
- Keep that sheet of paper in your pocket or purse this week and when you see it or feel it, let it remind you to thank God for this person's words and deeds that impacted your life.