Grace For The Journey
A pastor came home one day to find his daughter arguing with her friends in the bedroom. From the front hallway he could hear them yelling and calling each other names, so he quickly made his way up the stairs. “What’s going on in here?” he asked as he entered the room. His five-year-old looked up at him and smiled. “It’s okay, Daddy. We’re just playing church!”
We laugh at such story, but the reality is much darker and far more serious that we often realize. A sad but true fact is that the church is often thought of as being out of touch and insensitive to what is going on in the world. Often, the church is seen as being so wrapped up within itself that it has no compassion on, or time for a world that is perishing. In fact, there are many outside the church that would rather turn anywhere for help but to the church.
Philip Yancey tells about a friend of his who worked with homeless people in Chicago. One woman who was his friend was trying to help was a cocaine addict. She was so desperate that she would rent out her two-year-old daughter to men so they could have sex with her. The woman would get $100 per man which would be just enough for another fix. She was homeless, she had bad health, and she had no one to care for her. She poured out her story to a friend who is a Christian minister, and he was overwhelmed and amazed. At the end he said to her, “As you went through all this, did you ever think about going to a church for help?” He said that he would never forget the look of absolute naive shock that crossed her face as she said, “Church! Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling bad enough, they would just make me feel worse!”
Why do people have this perception of the church? Where did we go wrong? Indeed, have we gone wrong? I believe the honest answer is this, “Yes, like the disciples in this chapter, we have strayed from the Lord’s plan and we need to find the path back home again.” Thankfully, God has given us some insight into what we need in this day in which we live.
In John 21, dealing with a time in the disciples lives when they became sidetracked, we are presented with three powerful lessons, that if heeded and implemented in our churches would changethem forever. I don’t know about you, and I cannot speak for your church, but my heart’s desire for the church God has led me to pastor is that we become the kind of church where . . .
Is a place where lost folk
Can come and find help;
A place where the saints
Can come and a find home
And a place where we can all
Find hope for their lives.
I believe you want the same for the church you call home as well. Therefore, we need to hear the lessons that are laid out in these verses. We are going to go back over the verses in this chapter to learn how to be people who can be used by God to provide people help hope, and a home through our Lord Jesus Christ. This involves . . .
1) DEPENDENCE UPON GOD.
This truth comes after a night of waster activity.
This is seen in two ways . . .
A Return To The Old Life.
Seven of our Lord’s disciples made a decision to return to the Sea to find that which they needed. This is a picture of a life lived in the energy of the flesh. They were in Galilee because Jesus had told them that He would meet them there (Matthew 28:10).
They were in the right place, but
They were using the wrong methods.
Instead of waiting on the Lord
To come and give them direction,
They began doing things their way,
Based on what and how they knew to do.
Aren’t we guilty of doing this at church? We hear of a method that works over at this super church and we figure, “Well, if it worked there, it’ll work here!” If the Lord leads you to implement a program that you read about or hear about then go to it, but unless the Lord directs it, then it will come to nothing.
We need to be more concerned
With what the Lord wants us to be doing
Than copying the latest church growth scheme.
A Reminder From The New Life.
They fished all night and caught nothing! That must have been devastating for Andrew, Peter, James and John. After all, these men were professionals. They knew where the fish were and they knew how to catch them. But since the were called to follow Jesus things have changed! When these men were called to follow Jesus, they forsook their ships and their nets and followed Jesus. They have been called to be “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). They failed because they were walking in the flesh instead of the Spirit! There was nothing wrong with fishing, it just wasn’t the business Jesus wanted them to be about.
There is a word for us here as well.
We need to understand that in this
Modern day of fancy buildings,
Large budgets and good crowds,
Our resources will never be sufficient.
When we were saved, we were brought into a new relationship of total dependence upon Jesus Christ. I personally believe that this is the Lord’s will for us not only as individuals, but also as a church. We are to walk in utter dependence upon Jesus, realizing that without Him, we are nothing (John 15:5) . . . Knowing that in His power, we can do anything – Philippians 4:13).
The disciples experience a morning of wonderful abundance. When Jesus showed up, things began to change!
A Challenge From The Master.
Verse 5 says, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’” This question was designed to bring home the reality of their failure. They had fished all night. They were probably tired and hungry and now this fellow shows up asking them if they have any meat. Their short answer is an indication of the reality they felt all too well. At this moment, they felt like failures.
Aren’t you glad the Lord challenges us when we go about things in our own strength? When He does, it isn’t to rub our noses in our failures in an effort to put us down.
When He challenges our failed
Attempts at self-sufficiency,
His motive is that of
Awakening in us a renewed
Dependence upon Himself.
We need the constant reminder that “the just shall live by faith,” (Romans 1:17; “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” (Romans 14:23); and “Without faith it is impossible to please Him,” (Hebrews 11:6).
Will ever fail,
Will never fail!
A Command From The Master.
In verse 6 Jesus tells them to let down their nets on the right side of the boat with the promise that when they do, they will find the fish they have sought all night. When they obeyed the Lord’s command, they were rewarded with a huge catch of fish.
What they had failed to accomplish
With their skill, knowledge and power
Had been brought to pass in a single moment
By their obedience to the will of God.
What a lesson for us in the church today! We have programs, procedures, policies, etc. We have all the organization and the well-oiled machinery that we can use and still we are not catching fish like we should. What is the problem? Perhaps it is the same problem that the disciples had. Perhaps we are trusting everything instead of Jesus to get the job done. We can never expect to do the Lord’s work until we go about it in the Lord’s will! Perhaps the hour has arrived for us to chunk the junk and get back to what works. Perhaps it is time for the modern church to revisit the forsaken avenues of the protracted prayer meeting, old-fashioned preaching, door to door evangelism, and genuine love among the brethren. When we learn to fish the Lord’s way we will catch what we are after!
The Capability Of The Master.
Did you notice that in these verses, Jesus took care of every need they had? They were laboring ineffectively for fish and when they arrived on the shore, Jesus had fish and bread prepared. They were attempting to catch a few fish for a little food, Jesus gave them a net filled with fish that would help them and others. They were weary and cold from a night on the lake, Jesus had a fire prepared to warm and comfort them.
The lesson here is unmistakable . . .
Our need is the evidence
Of God’s supply in waiting.
When we lack, He has our supply! He is able to meet the need of His people (Philippians 4:19).
In these verses, there are some truths revealed about Jesus that can and will change every individual here as well as your church and mine . . .
· Jesus is alive from the dead.
There is no need to fear the task at hand. Jesus lives and will never leave us nor forsake us, but He ever lives to make intercession for us at the right hand of the Father.
· Jesus is able to control circumstances.
He changed in an instant what they had been unable to change in an entire night! Don’t give up! Learn to trust the power of our Savior (Matthew 17:20).
· Jesus is able to control success.
The success of the Disciples in this instance was entirely in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ. They would have continued in failure unless He had intervened! When He did, they enjoyed enormous success. Folks, this takes the pressure off of you and me! When we realize that the harvest is the Lord’s and our duty is to walk in His will and do what He tells us to, we come to recognize that He is also responsible for any measure of success that is obtained. My job is to obey. The duty of our churches is to obey. Success is in the hands of the Lord!
· Jesus is able to direct from afar.
Jesus was on the shore, the disciples were in a boat out on the sea, still the Lord was able to direct them and intervene on their behalf. What a lesson for the church! While we sail the stormy seas of life, Jesus is seated in Heaven. From that vantage point, He is able move in our circumstances, He is able to meet our needs, He is able to direct our lives and He is able to command His churches. He is not out of touch; He is in absolute control!
· Jesus is able to empower His people.
Jesus was able to accomplish in a moment that which they could not do in an entire night of self-effort. So it is in the life of His church! If we try to do these things in our own power, we will surely fail, but if we walk in the will of God, humble seeking His face and looking to His powerful hand to get the job done, then we cannot fail!
· Jesus is able to supply all the needs of His people.
When the Disciples reached the shore, they found that their labor had been in vain. Their attempts at self-sufficiency has been wasted. When they came face to face with Jesus, they found that He had everything they needed was already ready and waiting for them. May I remind you this evening that He is still Jehovah-Jireh?
To learn how to be people who can be used by God to provide people help hope, and a home through our Lord Jesus Christ also involves . . .
2) DUTY BEFORE GOD.
Our Primary Duty.
We see in verses 15-17, that three times, the disciple who denied the Lord, is called upon to reaffirm his love for Jesus. Much has been said about Peter’s confession and the word play that ensues between himself and the Lord. It is true that the first 2 times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him with “agape” love, and twice Peter answered that he loved Jesus with “phileo” love. However, before we become to harsh toward Peter, let’s remember that this is the man who had made his boast to go with Jesus unto the death and had, before that night was ended, denied Jesus three times. I see Peter humbled and honest before the Lord.
What is the word from the church from this passage? Love Christ! We, as a church, must move beyond the “phileo” love that says, “I am fond of you, I live you like a brother.”, and we must come to the place where we love the Lord with a genuine agape love. That is . . .
We need a
Love for Christ
Of our lives.
When we come to this point, Matthew 22:39 will pose no problems for us. Then we will be in a place to demonstrate to the lost world around us that Jesus is all that He claims to be (John 13:35)
Our Perpetual Duty.
Genuine love for Jesus is manifested in what way? Is it enough for me to say, “I love the Lord!”? Is it enough for our churches to say, “We really love Jesus here?!” No!
True love for the Lord
Always manifests itself
In obedience to
Then, when there is obedience
To the commands of Jesus,
He has promised to manifest
His presence in the midst of His people!
In these three verses, we are shown the perpetual duty of the church . . .
To Supply The Saints.
Peter is told to feed “my lambs” (verse 15), the “little ones,” and “My sheep.” (verse 16). These would be those who are more mature. The point is clear . . .
Jesus expected Peter to communicate
The mind and message of God to all ages.
Herein lies a problem that is ever growing in our churches.
· We have men who communicate their opinions.
· Men who communicate the course of politics and society.
· Men who communicate the mind of the Convention or denomination.
· There are those who communicate the mind of their favorite preacher.
However, if we are going to feed the lambs and the sheep, then we must open the Word of God and communicate the mind message of God to His people. When they receive a steady diet of “thus saith the Lord,” they will grow!
Some might say, “That is the preacher’s job! What does that have to do with me?” I would answer, “Everything!” The duty of the child of God in this matter cannot be over-stated. After all, there are many of you who teach in the church. When you stand before a small group Sunday morning Bible Study class or that Disciple class you have people there that need to have a word from God! For the rest of the church, like Joshua and Aaron, the members need to hold up the hands of those who are standing forth and communicating truth to the flock of God. Pray for God’s men and for those who teach in our churches. May I remind you that it takes every member of the body functioning in its appointed place to get the job done for Jesus? Let’s do our duty!
A visitor was being shown around a leper colony in India. At noon a gong sounded for the midday meal. People came from all parts of the compound to the dining hall. All at once peals of laughter filled the air. Two young men, one riding on the other’s back, were pretending to be a horse and a rider and were having loads of fun. As the visitor watched, he saw that the man who carried his friend was blind, and the man on his back was lame. The one who could not see used his feet; the one who could not walk used his eyes. Together they helped each other, and they found great joy in doing it.
Imagine a church like that – each member using his or her strength to make up for another’s weakness. That’s what should be happening in every congregation of believers.
To Support And Strengthen The Saints.
In verse 16, the word “feed” literally means “to tend, or to keep sheep.” Peter is told that the sheep need more than food. They are to be looked after and all their needs are to be supplied. Again, there is a message to pastors here, but there is also an application to all the saints of God. This thought reminds us that Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” This verse needs to become a reality in the modern church. When people enter the church they should know that they are part of a group that cares for them and that they are loved. We need to take every possible step to ensure that Matthew 22:39 is fully realized in every church around the world.
A Zulu proverb says that “when a thorn pierces the foot, the whole body must bend over to pull it out.” This kind of interdependence is a basic characteristic of the church. That may mean putting aside petty differences and pointless squabbles, but when we genuinely love one another, the world will notice and God Himself will manifest His power and presence among His people once again.
To learn how to be people who can be used by God to provide people help hope, and a home through our Lord Jesus Christ also involves . . .
3) DEVOTION TO GOD.
A Word About Reality.
In verse 18, Peter is reminded that obedience to Jesus carries at a price. Peter is told what kind of death he is to die for the Lord. When we decide, whether as churches, or as individuals, that we will walk in the will of the Lord and will love Him and each other like we should, then we can expect to come under attack from Satan.
The Bible plainly tells us that all who live for the Lord can expect to be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). The reality is that there is a price to pay, but in the end, the payoff is worth the price! What payoff?
The presence and power of God
Active in our lives and in our churches
Is plenty of dividend.
A Word About The Requirement.
Peter’s original call is reaffirmed (Matthew 4:18-19), and the Apostle is restored to his office. In this, we are reminded that Jesus has certain expectations concerning our walk with Him. It is simple, the requirements are the same for every person (Matthew 16:24). When we genuinely deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus, we will see our lives, our attitudes, our effectiveness, and our churches changed forever. Again, often the price is high, but the payoff is priceless!
A Word About Rivalry.
In verse 20, when Peter is told about his ultimate demise, he asks Jesus about John. It is as if there is some sort of rivalry in the mind of Peter with John. Jesus responds by telling Peter to tend to his own life and the Lord will take care of John. What a lesson for the church tonight!
Competition should be eliminated from our vocabularies! It isn’t about how much we have or how many we have as opposed to that which you have at your place of worship and ministry. Our testimony to the world should be that we can worship together, that we are not out to get one another. Bible-believing, Bible living believers, though they differ in worship styles, musical tastes, or on nonessential issues of doctrine, can come together for the greater glory of God and can work together to impact a world for Jesus. Therefore, instead of wondering how we can get more than those folks down the road, let’s begin praying for one another. Let’s begin working together to advance the Kingdom of God in this world.
After this impromptu breakfast meeting, the disciples were never the same. Peter became a powerhouse for Jesus, the others served with distinction and glorified God in their lives and ultimately by their deaths. Why the change? I believe the answer lies in the fact that they learned some lessons that were never forgotten that morning. Some lessons that they took to heart and that were allowed to work in their lives.
Has the Lord spoken to your heart? Perhaps on a personal level God has spoken to you and you realize that your walk with Him needs improvement. Perhaps you are a church leader and you know that there needs to be improvement in your walk with the Lord and witness for the Lord. Maybe God is speaking to another someone and you know that some of these lessons need to be heeded and implemented in your life. Perhaps, there is one who is reading this who has never been saved and God is calling you to come to Him. Why not take care of all these needs right now. God will move in response to the cry of His people! I trust that you will do as God would have you to do right now.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”