Grace For The Journey
We are studying our way through the Gospel of Luke in a series called, “Certainty in Uncertain Times.” The series comes from the prologue of the Gospel, the opening five verses, where Luke says to a man named Theophilus that he is writing this book that he “may know the certainty” of the things in which he was instructed. What is true for Theophilus is true for us. Our study of Luke’s Gospel is a study in certainty, a study of truth, that we may be certain in these uncertain days.
Jesus has begun His earthly ministry and what we learn about this morning is His calling forth of His first disciples, His first followers. Recently I came across an internet blog whose author imagined what a job description for followers of Jesus Christ would look like. It was entitled, “Job Vacancy – Disciple.” The job description was based upon things Jesus said or did in the Bible. I thought it good to share from some of it with you:
Job title: Disciple
Location: Flexible. You will essentially be a field worker fulfilling the requirements of the role in your local community. You must be prepared to leave the security of home behind at certain times.
Role and purpose: You are to live as Jesus taught, and follow His example.
The successful candidate must be available to start immediately with no exceptions for family emergencies or sensitivities.
You may be required at times to undertake public relations exercises to senior officials hostile to the organization. Specific instructions for these exchanges will be supplied in the field.
You will be expected pray always and not give up.
You will be expected to love God and others as you love yourself.
You will be expected to be clear about your priorities – loving your family must come second to loving your employer.
You will be prepared to undertake suffering as and when it is required of the job, taking up your cross each day.
The ideal candidate will not be a worrier, particularly about food, security, and clothing.
While not paying a salary in the conventional sense you will undertake your position with the following understanding:
Be prepared to sell all your possessions and give to the poor.
When travelling do not take money, a bag, spare clothes, or shoes.
Whoever follows Jesus, will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
Those of us familiar with the Bible will know that that job description is consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ. The passage before us is one such passage that helps us understand what followers of Jesus Christ look like. I am going to assume that there is a majority reading my blog this morning who wish to be followers of Jesus Christ. Not all will be interested, but many of you are because you want to grow in your walk with the Lord and be the man or woman God saved and designed you to be. To this end our passage helps greatly as it answers the question, “What do we see in true, Christ-followers?” We will also note that there are a few defining characteristics of those who wish to follow Jesus. What do we see in true, Christ-followers? First . .
I. We See Willingness.
We see a spirit of willingness to obey Jesus Christ no matter what He asks us to do. We see that in our passage today. Look at the opening verses of chapter 5. Luke first gives us the background of the situation. He says in verse 1 that the crowds are pressing about Him to hear the Word of God as He stands teaching by the Lake of Gennesaret. As a preacher, I have never had this problem of crowd control! They are pressing about, pushing, shoving, trying to hear Jesus, so Jesus decides to do something about this. Verse 2 says He sees a couple of boats there by the lake. Verse 2 also says that “the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.” Later verses and the greater context reveal to us that these boats belong to Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Jesus is eyeing these boats because He plans to use one of them as a floating pulpit. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you cannot preach to a crowd of people because you cannot see them and they cannot see nor hear you, then you get yourself in a position that improves the situation. Verse 3 tells us that Jesus “got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.”
This is the background for what happens next. Look at verses 4-5, “When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ But Simon answered and said to Him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.’” Imagine how absurd this request must have sounded to Simon. He and at least three other men; his brother Andrew, and James and John, had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Nighttime was the time to fish on Gennesaret Lake, not daytime. And the men had been out all night. Earlier, when Jesus began preaching to the crowd, the men were gone, verse 2 told us, “washing their nets.” These were huge, dragnets that were cast into the waters by these strong and burly men. Great strength quired to cast the net again and draw it up, and then cast it again and draw it up, over and over again. The arms would quickly tired and the back began to hurt from bending over for such long periods of time. These men had not even caught a single fish. They had returned the evening before tired, exhausted, and empty-handed. The next morning, they took these heavy, water-logged nets and they were washing them and carefully untangling and mending them. Then they set them out to dry under the hot sun. Jesus says, “I want you to gather up those nets again and take this boat out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Now what do you think was the first thing to go through Simon Peter’s mind? I suppose had I been Simon Peter I might have thought, “You obviously know nothing about fishing. You do not do this thing in the daylight hours under the hot, eastern sun. Furthermore, we have been fishing all night in this lake and we have not caught so much as a single, solitary, sorry carp. Launch out into the deep and let down our nets for a catch? We will let down our nets, but there will be no catch. Jesus, you are a carpenter. What do you know about fishing?”
Is that what you would say? “Jesus, your area of expertise is biblical teaching and Bible study and smiling and bouncing children on your knee, what could you possibly know about accounting? You are a Bible teacher, Jesus, so what could you know about banking, about sales, about machinery, medicine, welding, profit and loss statements, and inventory and end-of-the-month reports? Jesus, what could you know about social services and teaching unwilling students in public school? What could you know, Jesus, about laundry and housework?”
If Peter thought that way – and he may have at first – he was willing nevertheless to do what Jesus asked. Verse 5 indicates a spirit of willingness, “But Simon answered and said to Him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.’” That was a statement of fact. They had fished all night and were unsuccessful, but do not read that without quickly moving on to what Peter says next. He says, in last part of verse 5, perhaps with a congenial smile, “Nevertheless, at Your word I will let down the net.”
Here is a man with a willing spirit. Here is a man who obeys Jesus even when there is an inner struggle with what Jesus says to do. Peter obeys Jesus even when everything within him screams, “This cannot be! This will never work! This doesn’t make sense!”
It is a bit like Genesis 12 where God says to Abram, “I want you to pick up everything and move. Go away from your country, from your family, and from your father’s house.” Where? God says, “To a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12”112:1).” Now does that make sense? Would you be willing to quit your job, pack up your family, and your personal belongings and, when someone asks, “Where are you going?” You say, “God’s going to show me.” “Oh… right.”
A faithful follower of Jesus Christ
Has a willingness to do what
He is asked even if it does not
Seem to make sense.
A faithful follower of Jesus
Has a willingness to do what
He is asked even if it seems
Out of step with the world.
When Peter obeys the Master’s command, God honors that obedience and shows Himself strong in Peter’s life. The power of God is evident in the catching of a huge number of fish so that, verse 6, “their net was breaking.” Verse 7 says, “So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them and they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.”
It is difficult to read these verses without asking ourselves some soul-searching questions. Could it be that the reason I do not experience a great sense of God’s power is because I am unwilling to do all that He asks? I know what the Bible says about witnessing, about trusting, about praying, attending church, about tithing, and about trusting and obeying, but some of the things He asks me to do are so out of step with the world! Could it be that the reason you do not experience power and victory in your life is because you never do anything radical. You just wade in the shallow waters by the shore. You are safe there. You ae secure there. You are comfortable there. You like to go to church once a week. It feels good. You are comfortable. It works well into You schedule. We never wade out into the waters. We just float around living a safe, secure life. Jesus calls us to more than that.
He says in Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.”
Jesus is calling you to something bigger, better, and greater than your safety, your security, and your comfortable lifestyle. Jesus calling you to a soul-saving, disciple-making, world-changing kind life. Are you in or out? Willingness.
What else do we see in true, Christ-followers? Secondly . . .
II. We See Brokenness.
True, Christ-followers maintain a humble, spirit of brokenness before the Lord. They are aware of their sins and their constant need for the grace of God. We see this in Peter as he is simply overwhelmed at the great catch of fish. Verse 8 to 10 tell us, “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.”
Note that phrase again in verse 8, “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’” Maybe we have read this event so many times that we have forgotten how strange this reaction seemed to us when we first read it. We might have expected something different. Jesus performs this great miracle, demonstrating that He is Lord over all creation, including the fish in the lake. He just thinks it and all the fish in the lake swim into the nets, and had we been there, we would have been like, “Wow! This is great! Jesus come again tomorrow and we will catch some more fish! We will make a killing!” But that is not how Simon Peter responds. I sense that there is a long period of silence, Peter’s face frozen in shock, staring at Jesus, trying to process everything that has been happening since he first met Jesus of Nazareth and, after what seems an eternity, he falls down at Jesus’ knees, falling down headfirst into the mass of smelly fish and cries, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O lord!”
Peter recognizes that this Jesus is more than a moral teacher, more than a good man who says good things. He had already been gathering this from Jesus’ teachings and healings in the previous chapter. Peter had seen Jesus heal his own mother-in-law. While he may not have yet been ready to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of God,” he realizes that there is something uniquely divine about this Jesus of Nazareth. You note Peter’s growing understanding in the progression from verse 5 to verse 8. In verse 5 he calls Jesus “Master;” in verse 8 he calls Him “Lord.”
This is the natural response when a sinful man finds himself in the presence of a holy God. When sinfulness meets holiness, the result is brokenness. True, Christ-followers maintain a spirit of brokenness before the Lord. True, Christ-followers understand the feeling of Peter much as we understand the feeling of Job in Job 42:5-6, who said to God, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” True Christ followers understand the feeling of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5, when he said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” True, Christ-followers understand the feeling of the Roman Centurion in Luke 7:6, who said to Jesus, “I am not worthy for you to enter my house.”
When sinfulness meets holiness,
The result is brokenness.
The more the Christian grows in Christ, the more aware he becomes of his sin. The more the Christian grows in Christ, the more sensitive he is of his sin. We sing, “I need Thee, O I need Thee. Every hour I need Thee.” We grow in our awareness of sin and the great need, therefore, for a continual Mediator, a constant “Go Between,” to stand between God and us, forever taking care of our sins through and granting to us His righteousness. There is no room in the Christian experience for prideful boasting. We identify strongly with the words in the hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”
Forbid it Lord that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ my God.
The vain things which charm me most
I sacrifice them to His Blood.
True Christ-followers maintain a spirit of brokenness. We see willingness . . . We see brokenness . . . and finally . . .
III. We See Devotedness.
Peter is broken and on his knees before the Lord. Not part of him, but all those with him. Verse 9 states that they, “were astonished” at what had happened. Verse 10 says, “And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.’” I like that little phrase, “from now on.”
That phrase sums up the Christian experience.
When we have a life-changing encounter with Christ, things will be different.
- From that time on we will walk in His strength.
- From that time on we will have His power.
- From that time on our lives will have purpose.
- From that time on we will be forgiven.
- From that time on we will catch men.
True, Christ-followers are catchers of men. Christians are persons who share the Gospel with men and women. We do so in the “4 Cs” of Acts 1:8 . . .
We are devoted to the task of “catching men.” We are called to a lifestyle of catching men. Some will do this in a full-time vocational sense of missionary work across the seas. Others will remain in jobs and positions in the community, but will be no less devoted to this mission of sharing the Gospel this week with co-workers, friends, and neighbors. You cannot miss the sense of utter and complete devotedness to Christ in verse 11, “So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” They forsook all and followed Him. They just left everything right where it was and they followed Jesus. He was now “Number 1” in their lives. He was “first place.” He was “Lord.”
Not every one of us is a true, Christ-follower. Not every one of us can truthfully sing the words, “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back; though none go with me, still I will follow; the world behind me, the cross before me, no turning back, no turning back.”
Are you a true, Christ-follower? Do have a constant sense of willingness, a constant sense of brokenness, and a constant sense of devotedness? What is the Master and Lord Jesus asking you to do right now in your life? Come and surrender your life to Christ, being saved from sin, death, and hell? Come and surrender your life to missional work among a waiting unreached people group? Come in some other way? Will you do it? Will you forsake all and follow Him?
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.”