Sunday, July 30, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Luke: The Gospel for Everyone
Our calling #2
This is our Summer Bible Series—we are working our way through Luke, the gospel for everyone. A few weeks ago, we read one of my favorite stories, the calling of the first disciples and the miraculous catch of fish in Luke 5. We looked how Jesus called them, and focused on four similarities to how Jesus calls us: go, leave, follow and fish. I was able to cover the first two (go and leave) then, and today, we’re returning to that story to finish the last two (follow and fish). Here’s the story.
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
We’re going to look at these four characteristics of Simon’s calling that are true of Jesus’ calling you and me: go, leave, follow, and fish. I’ll do a quick review of the first two and we’ll spend most of our time on the last two.
- Go away!
When Simon Peter saw this miraculous catch of fish, he realized that the man who was in his boat was more than a man. He dropped to his knees and begged Jesus, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinner.”
All through the Bible, when people encountered God, they fell on their faces and thought they were going to die. They suddenly realized how holy, how perfect God is and how broken and sinful they are. This is Peter’s response to meeting Jesus. “Go away! I’m a sinner.”
Peter’s call began with this spiritual awakening. He realized who Jesus was, and he realized who he was. Jesus is God, I am not. Jesus is holy, I am not. I am a sinner. “Go away from me!”
Our calling begins with this spiritual awakening. When you meet Jesus, you’ll know two things at the same time. You’ll know that you are more deeply flawed than you realized, and you are more deeply loved than you ever dreamed. Come face to face with Jesus, and you’ll see how awesome he is and how broken you are. Come face to face with Jesus and you’ll fall on your knees and say, “Go away from me,” all the while hoping he won’t! This is the gospel: you are more sinful than you know and more deeply loved than you can imagine. When you come face to face with Jesus, you’ll understand both of these.
Our calling starts here: with the spiritual awakening that comes from meeting Jesus. “You are God, and I’m not. I bow before you.”
- Leave everything.
Did you notice that it says they left everything and followed Jesus? What did they leave? Everything. They left their boats and nets. They also left the catch—that net-tearing, boat-sinking catch—they left it on the beach. It was the greatest catch of their professional lives. It represented more money than they had ever seen. And they just walked away.
You only do that—you only leave everything—if there’s something much better being offered. Jesus is that good! Jesus is that good! He’s worth leaving everything. Jesus is worth it!
They left everything. And I believe that this is part of our calling too. What does it look like for us to leave everything? We talked about three things.
First, it means that we leave our idolatry and make Jesus our everything. What is your everything? What is most important to you? Your self—your pleasure? Your family? Money? Success? Whatever it is, you leave that behind as your everything, because Jesus becomes your everything. And the good news is that when Jesus is first, when Jesus is Lord, when Jesus is everything, then everything else takes its rightful place and is better. St. Augustine said that sin is disordered love—we love something more than God. When Jesus becomes first, our everything, then all the other things in our lives take their rightful place and we love them better because we love them less.
Second, we leave our sin. I said that this is an ongoing process. As we follow Jesus, He will point out junk that we’re dragging around and say, “Time to leave that behind.” What garbage are you still dragging around that you should have let go of long ago? Leave it, and follow Jesus.
Third, we leave our religion. Religion is your own self-effort to please God. Here’s the reality: you can never be good enough on your own. Religion is spelled DO—it’s about what you do for God. Christianity is spelled DONE—it’s about what God has done for you in Christ. It’s time to leave your religion and follow Jesus.
There’s the quick review of “go and leave.” If you want more, listen to that message two weeks ago.
They left everything—why? To follow Jesus. That’s next.
- Follow me.
In both Matthew and Mark’s accounts of the call, Jesus calls these men, “Come, follow me.”
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
For them, following Jesus was a literal, physical following. They went wherever Jesus went. They followed him around. It looked like this:
ILL: Call some people to follow me around, including into the commons and to the coffee bar.
We can’t follow Jesus in that same way—a physical following—so what does it mean for us to follow Jesus today? Two things.
First, we’re called into a relationship with Jesus. When Jesus called His men to follow, He was calling them into a relationship. They were going to live with Him, walk with Him, talk with Him, listen to Him, laugh with Him, eat with Him, play with Him, work with Him—all of it! They were going to know Him really well.
It’s the same for us. Following Jesus is a relationship. Our first call is to be with Jesus, to follow him, to live with Him, walk with Him, talk with Him, listen to Him, laugh with Him, eat with Him, play with Him, work with Him—all of it! We are getting to know Jesus really well, because we are doing all of life with Him.
Can you think of a relationship like that in your life? For many of you, it will be marriage. You are married to your best friend. You spend lots of time together; you talk about everything; you know each other really well. Do you know Jesus like that?
For those who are single, it may be your best friend. Who is that person whom you know best, with whom you are the closest and spend the most time? Do you know Jesus like that?
That’s the kind of relationship we’re talking about. To follow Jesus is to enter into a 24/7 relationship with Him.
Jesus didn’t call these men to be more religious, to follow a set of rules or rituals; He called them to follow Him. He didn’t give them a set on instructions; He gave them Himself.
ILL: One summer in college, I had a job that required I travel to a lot of out-of-the-way towns. One day I was in Drain, Oregon. I finished my work and wanted to get back to the freeway (I had come from the north and was heading south so I didn’t want to backtrack), but wasn’t sure of the best route. This was long before cell phones or GPS’s. We had maps made of paper—it’s a substance made from wood pulp—but I didn’t have one with me. So I asked the clerk at a local store for directions. He said, “Go on down the road a piece, and take a left by the big red barn. Go about a mile and you’ll see a yellow house with a picket fence. Go right there. Take a left at the road after that and you’ll cross a bridge. Go over the underpass and under the overpass and you’ll be on your way.” Gee thanks. There was a man standing behind me who said, “I’m headed that way. Why don’t you follow me?” I did. I just focused on his bumper and he took me straight to the freeway.
Follow me! That was so much easier than the convoluted directions the clerk gave me. Jesus didn’t give the disciples a book of instructions, or a set of directions. He offered them a relationship. He said, “Follow me.” And they did.
Here’s the rub: how do you have a relationship with a person you can’t see or hear?
First, I believe that Jesus is with me all the time. This was His promise to those first disciples when He gave them their mission. He told them to make disciples wherever they went, and promised:
Matthew 28:20 And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
“I am with you always.” It’s His promise to them—and to us. He was not present physically with them after that, but His Spirit was with them always.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Notice that the Spirit will be with us forever. This is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, which is why Jesus can say, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Where the Spirit is, Jesus is. Jesus actually said that it would be better for them that He go away.
John 16:7 But I am telling you the truth: it is better for you that I go away, because if I do not go, the Helper will not come to you. But if I do go away, then I will send him to you.
How could it possibly be better for Jesus to go away and the Spirit to come? Jesus in His physical body could only be in one place at one time. Imagine Jesus being here in His physical body. When church is over, who wants to take Him home with you? If He goes home with you, He can’t go home with me. But His Spirit can be with all of us wherever we are all the time. He is always with us—all of us. That’s better.
I start here. I believe that Jesus is with me. I believe that even though I can’t see Him, He sees me. Even though I can’t hear him audibly, He hears me. He’s always with me. So I talk with Him all day long. And I try to listen for His voice—His whisper in my head and heart.
This is why my daily PBJ time (Prayer, Bible, Journal) is so important to me. My spiritual practices are designed to build my relationship with Jesus. I make space in my busy life to listen to Jesus, to let Him speak to me. As I get better with practice at listening to Him, I begin to recognize His voice all through the day. For me, my devotions aren’t a duty or a ritual; they are part of the relationship. It’s like having coffee every day with my best friend. For many of you, just doing this one thing could transform your relationship with Jesus, and your life! If you aren’t doing this, pick up a journal at the info center—there are instructions inside and on our website.
I have a relationship with Jesus. He talks with me, and I talk with him. We do things together—pretty much everything. We go to work together, we go home together, we eat together, we ride motorcycles together, we play golf together, we do yard work together, we go on long walks together, we sit in the hot tub and talk together. In all these things—and many others—I talk with him and he with me, and I try to follow his lead. Jesus didn’t call me to be more religious; He called me to be more alive. It’s a relationship. I’m following Jesus. I want that for you too.
First, we’re called into a relationship with Jesus.
Second, we’re called into a community with each other. When Jesus called His men to follow, He was calling them into a community with each other. They were going to live with each other, walk with each other, talk with each other, listen to each other, laugh with each other, eat with each other, play with each other, work with each other—all of it! They were going to know each other really well.
When Jesus called people to follow, He called them to do it together. No one followed Jesus alone. No one said, “Well, Lord, I’ll be happy to follow you if you just get rid of these jerks. Just you and me, Lord.” When they said yes to a relationship with Jesus, they said yes to relationships with His other followers—all of them. They didn’t get to pick and choose. Jesus did the choosing. They simply had to live with whoever Jesus chose.
No one follows Jesus alone. He calls you into a community. We follow Jesus together. We’re better together. It’s one of our core values around here: team. We’re better together. We say it all the time: Christianity is a team sport. You can’t play football by yourself, or basketball, or baseball…or be a Christian. No one follows Jesus alone. We need a team. We’re called into a community.
This is why we beat the drum so incessantly for 1-2-3.
1—being in Church,
3—joining a Team, a Life Group or a serving team.
All of these connect you not only with Jesus, but with each other.
Ok, true confession time. Honestly, being in community is a mixed bag.
It can be maddening. Sometimes my fellow followers irritate me—and I know I irritate them. Sometimes Christians act like such meatheads that I wish I could follow Jesus alone—or at least pick out a few of my favorite folks and just hang with them.
Jesus knew this would happen. Jesus called Matthew the tax collector to follow Him—Matthew would have been a left-leaning liberal. And Jesus called Simon the Zealot to follow Him—Simon would have been a flaming right-winger! Jesus knew they wouldn’t get along. And He called them anyway. He knew that they would be good for each other. Jesus knows that you need some good irritating people in your life to help you grow. So as much as I’d like to be rid of them, I’ve learned that I need the people who drive me crazy. Don’t give up when it gets crazy! We’re better together. Honestly, it can be maddening.
But it can also be the best thing ever. Having friends who love you and whom you love; hanging out with people who encourage you, who are for you, who are devoted to you; doing what you love with people you love—what could be better than that? I am deeply enriched by community—I know Jesus better because of hanging out with you. We’re better together.
So being in community is a mixed bag—it was for Jesus’ men too. They often fought and argued about the dumbest stuff. But they also loved each other deeply. It’s community—it’s messy, and we need it. When Jesus calls you to follow, He calls you not only into relationship with Himself, but into community, friendship with each other. We’re better together.
We are called to follow Jesus. We are called into relationship with Him and community with each other.
“Follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
- Fish for people.
Literally, the call was, “Come, follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.”
What comes first? Follow me. We are called to follow Jesus, and when we do, He will make us fishers of men. We are called to follow Jesus, and He will use us to catch people for God.
I believe this is not just their calling—it’s ours too. Every follower of Jesus is called to catch people for God. Every disciple is called to make disciples. Every one of us is called to share the good news we’ve heard with others who desperately need it. But many of us feel profoundly uncomfortable with this. We’ve grown up hearing that we shouldn’t talk about our faith. We don’t want to be pushy and obnoxious. We don’t know how to do this in a way that is simple, honest, natural, joyful and winsome.
How does this happen? Let me start with the idea that your job is to follow Jesus and his job is to make become a fisher of men. When you truly follow Jesus, as you get to know Him, He changes you. You become a new person and He makes your life something beautiful! He makes you attractive. I don’t mean physically attractive; I mean personally attractive. The Spirit produces beautiful fruit in your life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. When you are full of love and joy and peace, you will attract people like a magnet.
ILL: My father-in-law, Pastor Noel, now with the Lord, was the best example of this I’ve ever seen. He was so full of Jesus, so full of the fruit of the Spirit, that everyone who met him was drawn to him. People wanted to be close to him. And when you got close to him, he was so full of Jesus that it just splashed out on you.
Have we got some fishermen here? How do you catch fish? You use the right bait. If you’re fly fishing, you study the hatch—what are the fish feeding on? If you’re bait fishing, you try different things until you discover what the fish are going for. When we’re trying to catch people for God, you want to use the right bait. The best bait is a man or woman fully alive in Jesus—someone filled with the Spirit and full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Jesus makes your life attractive.
When you follow Jesus—when you have a relationship with Jesus—He changes you! You become a different person. You come alive! You become a better husband or wife, a better family member, a better friend. You become a better employer or employee, a better neighbor, a better man, a better woman. It’s that change that starts attracting people around you. “You’re different,” they’ll say, and they’ll want to know what makes you so happy. What gives you such peace? How can you be so patient, so loving, so joyful? And the answer is Jesus.
Follow Jesus and He will make your life so beautiful that you’ll be a magnet that attracts people like crazy. You’ll be like bait that catches people for God.
Every Christian is a walking advertisement for Jesus. What kind of ad are you? Does your life make those around you want what you have? Are you a magnet for Jesus? If you are, then fishing for people is simple, honest, natural, joyful and winsome.
We are an outreach church. We believe that our church exists not just for us, but for all the people in our community who have yet to experience Jesus and the full life He brings. Our church exists for outsiders, not just insiders; for those far from God, not just the already convinced. I’m constantly thinking about how we’re reaching these people and speaking to them. It’s our calling: we’re to catch people for God.
ILL: A few weeks ago, when I said something nice about our congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, I inadvertently offended some people who mistook my remarks as a political endorsement. One of our members here sent me an email. He’d brought a friend for the first time, and his friend was offended and said he’d never come back. I sent an apology, and agonized over this. I was deeply bothered that my remarks might have kept this person from meeting Jesus. I would never want that to happen. Recently, I had lunch with that Life Center member who invited him, and he told me that his friend is a member of another church. “Oh, why didn’t you tell me that? I don’t mind offending him! He already knows Jesus—he’ll be ok. I was afraid that I kept your friend from Jesus. I feel much better knowing I offended a Christian!”
I’m saying this tongue in cheek—but I’m saying that we are called to catch people for God and we take that very seriously.
We want to do it in a way that is simple, honest, natural, joyful and winsome. So we use a simple three step approach called Find Tell Bring that anyone can do.
Find someone you love.
Tell them what you know.
Bring them to church.
Let me just say a few words about each step.
Find someone you love. It all starts with loving people. When you love people, you are a magnet. When you love people, they are more likely to want to listen to what you have to say. Love people until they ask you why.
Tell them what you know. Share your story—no one can argue with that—it’s your story. Share the simple story of Jesus. You don’t have to win any arguments. You don’t have to know everything. You just have to be real and share what you know in a simple, honest, natural, joyful and winsome way.
Bring them to church. Why? Christianity is a team sport. The sooner you can expose them to authentic, loving community, the better. Who do you know that might be one invitation away from a changed life?
God has called you to follow Jesus and fish for people! It’s the Great Adventure
Video: Cat’s story followed by prayer (we will be her four friends)