For anyone who's feeling inadequate to be called a disciple of Christ, there's good news in John MacArthur's new book "Follow Me." It's a 109-page gift book (J. Countryman, 2004) with rich, meaty and encouraging truths exemplified by some less-than-perfect disciples.
"They weren't distinguished for their natural talents or intellectual power," writes MacArthur. "They were prone to mistakes, wrong attitudes, lapses of faith and bitter failures." Now, that should give us hope!
Of course the author cites the fiery, passionate Peter as one example of the imperfect. He writes, "I like to refer to him as the apostle with the foot-shaped mouth." He recalls that Peter exhibited impulsiveness, rebellion and ambivalence. Yet he became "The Rock" upon which Christ's church would be built.
While Peter was impulsive, sometimes brash and very vocal, his brother Andrew was quite a contrast. Scripture seems to portray Andrew as a quiet man, perhaps not a preacher or a natural leader. But he brought people to Christ, one by one. And MacArthur says most believers come to Christ not as the result of a sermon they heard in a church or crusade, but through the influence of an individual whose faith is lived out in daily life, perhaps someone like Andrew.
One helpful feature of the book is that, for every principle he draws from the lives of disciples, MacArthur offers scriptural reference to help a reader nail down the truth. For example, he writes, "Have you fallen down in your walk with the Lord? He hasn't abandoned you – indeed, He will cleanse you and restore you in response to your sincere prayer of confession (1 John 1:9)."
MacArthur also cites a number of disciples from more recent history, among them a nutshell account of the life of John Newton. The young Englishman ran away to sea in the 1700s. In Africa, he pursued a life of absolute debauchery before God reached him through an African missionary. The transformed Newton became a minister and writer of many great hymns, including "Amazing Grace."
"Following Christ isn't rooted in spectacular events, juiced-up conferences, or continual mountaintop experiences," writes MacArthur. Christ taught as he walked the roads of daily living, drawing lessons from what his listeners knew. The author urges readers not to despise daily routines, but to find in them an opportunity to follow Christ's example.
By no means does he suggest that following Christ is easy. It doesn't require perfection before we begin the journey, but it does require transformation by Christ, a true change of heart and behavior. Christ was confrontational and His message was offensive to the multitudes. Historically, only a small band of the truly transformed have persevered in their resolve to follow Him.
MacArthur said in an exclusive interview, "The disadvantage of these little books is that people think that's all they need to know." However, he said there is one up-side to small books: They are "a way to get a grip on those subjects, in response to which somebody could go deeper into the Word of God."
"Follow Me" is an engaging series of succinct readings somewhat akin to daily devotional readings, though not formatted in that way. The entire volume could be read in one sitting, but the reader will, indeed, be best served by reading the accounts one at a time, then turning to the Word to study the references he cites. That's the way MacArthur desires to lead readers into a more intimate relationship with Christ as we learn better how to follow Him.
Randall Murphree, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is editor of AFA Journal, a monthly publication of the American Family Association. Dr. John MacArthur, author of numerous best-selling books, is pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, president of The Master's College and Seminary, and president of "Grace to You" radio program.
© 2004 AgapePress. All rights reserved. Used with permission.