From Self-Serving to Surrendered: Lessons from the Lives of James and John

To look at the lives of brothers, James and John, is to see the power and hope that comes through sanctification. We find that the raw, God-given design of men and women can be refined and redirected in world-changing ways when those lives are surrendered to Jesus Christ.

Like Andrew and Peter, whom we wrote about earlier this week, James and John were brothers and fishermen. In fact, the gospels record that these two sets of brothers were called as disciples by Jesus within feet of each other on the same body of water.

16Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. — Mark 1:16–20 (ESV)

Just a few words into this passage, we begin to see the transformation that occurs in lives surrendered to Christ. Scripture tells us how these first four disciples of Christ progress from men of raw human ability to refined ambassadors of God the Son.

From fishermen to fishers of men – The first four disciples that Jesus called – Andrew, Peter, James and John – he summoned from the Sea of Galilee where they were fishing. They weren’t pleasure fishers; fishing was their family business. Yet, they immediately ceded their source of livelihood to study the Giver of Life.

From servant-supported to servants of Christ – Mark 1:20 tells us James and John left not only their father, but also hired servants when they abandoned their boat – a sign of family affluence. Their conviction that Christ truly was the Messiah, however, moved them to relinquish their riches for the sake of the Way.• From spirited to Spirit-led – James and John were nicknamed the Sons of Thunder because of their boldness and fiery temperaments. But God transformed them over time from young brothers ready to take on the world to mature men of faith willing to suffer for Christ.

From self-seeking to self-sacrificing – Matthew 20:20-28 tell about the misguided request that Salome, mother of James and John, makes to Jesus. Not only does she ask that Jesus seat the brothers on His left and His right when He reigns over the Kingdom, but her sons naively declare they are ready and desirous of the honor. But the mother and her sons soon realize that the only way Jesus would ascend to a throne is by laying down His own life – via crucifixion on a splintering tree. And after three years of following their Savior on His earthly ministry, they were willing to do the same. James ultimately became the first disciple to be slain for Christ (Acts 12:1-2); and, although John was the last of the disciples to die, he lived many years as an exile on the island of Patmos.

From intolerant to openhearted – Yet another Scripture account (Luke 9:51-56) details Jesus and the disciples heading toward Jerusalem because His earthly ministry was drawing to a close. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to ask that they prepare for His arrival; but the Samaritans refused. James and John immediately desired to call fire down on the village, but Jesus rebuked them. Days later, as John stood as the lone disciple at the foot of the cross, his eyes and heart were opened. Not only did he live the rest of his life sharing the Good News, but he stepped in as the earthly son to Christ’s mother, Mary, as assigned by Jesus Himself.

These transformations may seem extraordinary, friend, and in many respects they are. Only 12 men in history can claim the role of original disciple, but they share a commonality with every person who follows Christ as his/her Lord and Savior. Every life saved by grace is marked by “from. . .to. . .” statements. Because of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, we at The Sublime Soiree celebrate transitions from sinners to saints, from lost to found, from messy to messengers, from dead to alive, from hopeless to hope-filled, and from wandering to focused.

How about you? Have you seen the transforming power of faith in Jesus Christ author some “from. . .to. . .” statements in your life? Send us an email and tell us about them. We love to read about the grace of God working its glory in the lives of others! Or, perhaps you desire change in your life, but haven’t seen it yet. Why not lift up this prayer daily, and journal the glimpses of God’s almighty power at work in you over the days to come. Be encouraged, friend! God loves you, and so do we!

Dear God, I am grateful that You so loved the world that You gave Your only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. I praise You for showing Your love for me in that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. I know that everyone has sinned against You, Lord, and has fallen short of Your glory. The wages of sin is death, but You have given the gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. I want to receive that gift, Lord, so I place my full trust in Jesus Christ. Thank You for Your promise that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. I welcome the “from. . .to. . .” statements You are authoring for me, as I trust in You. To You be all glory. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.


— The Sublime Soiree © June 10, 2021

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