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TEXT: Luke 5:1-11
SUBJECT: Luke #12: The Call to Service
Today, with God's blessing, we'll continue our study of Luke's Gospel. Thus far, the Lord has been doing everything on His own-preaching the Gospel, healing the sick, casting out devils, and so on.
This is a good way to start, but it's a bad long-term strategy. Our Lord won't be here forever and He's got to train men to do His work when He's gone. They'll do it by His grace, wisdom, and power, of course, but still, it is they who must do it.
That's what our story is about today: It is the call of Peter, James, and John.
Luke begins his story in the usual way: by setting the scene. It took place at the beach on the Sea of Geneserat-or Galilee. Our Lord is teaching the multitudes-and He's been at it all morning, it seems.
The people are enthralled by His sermon-they've never heard anything like it. As it goes on, they begin creeping closer and closer to the preacher. If they keep it up, they're going to push him into the sea!
But then He has an idea. There are some fishermen nearby with their boats pulled up on the beach. He steps into one of the boats and tells the skipper to push off a ways. With the breathing room this affords, He finishes the sermon and sends the people home.
But the fishermen are still there; they've got work to do. They had fished all night and now they had to wash off their nets before coming back that night for more fishing.
As they're doing this very slow and monotonous work, the Lord turns to the skipper and tells him to "Launch out into the deep and let your nets down for a catch".
This is not what Peter wanted to hear! He and his partners had fished all night and caught nothing. The worst time you could fish with nets was in the morning (because the fish could see the nets, of course!) He even had a Bible verse to back him up, Proverbs 1:17, "Surely the net is set in vain in the sight of any bird".
What's true of birds is also true of fish: If they see the net, they'll never go into it.
But the Lord has not asked Peter to do this; He has commanded it. Peter obeys the Lord,
"Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, at Your Word, I will let down the net".
The net is dropped into the Lake and boom!-it's full of fish. So many, in fact, that the near started to tear, and so Peter called to James and John for their help, and the three of them pulled the net ashore, with the biggest catch they'd ever made.
Peter is awestruck by the knowledge and power of Jesus Christ. He had no experience fishing, yet He knew more than the old pros did. Or, maybe there was more to it than that-beginner's luck. Maybe He directed the fish into the net.
The men knew He had power over demons and disease, but here he exercises an authority over nature itself. Peter didn't know the whole story yet, but being a devout Jew, he must have known that no one controls the forces of nature but God.
It was the Lord who made the fish swallow Jonah-and spit him out alive. Jesus Christ seems to have the same power, Peter must have surmised.
Seeing the majesty of God on display, Peter is gripped by a sense of unworthiness. He falls down before his Master, saying "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man".
He wasn't alone: everyone else felt the same way- "They were astonished with the catch of fish that they had made"-
.And what it said about the Rabbi from Nazareth.
The Lord does not do what Peter asked Him to do. He doesn't leave him there. In fact, He invites Peter, James, and John to follow Him. And from now on-He says-"You will catch men".
The fishermen obey the Lord. Luke says, "They forsook all and followed Him".
That's the story.
But what does it mean? It all depends on what you think the Lord is calling these men to. Peter, James, and John were the three most favored Apostles. They saw the Lord transfigured; they were with Him in The Garden of Gethsemane. Peter was their chief spokesman; James was their first martyr; John, of course, was "The disciple whom the Lord loved".
If that's what the Lord was doing that day-calling men to be
Apostles-there's not much we can get from it for ourselves-because there are no more Apostles.
I suppose we could admire the grace of our Lord for choosing these men-low class fishermen-to build His church on. Or, we could admire His power in turning these men into outstanding preachers and theologians. That's all good and useful.
But the real message is much more personal than that. It's not until the next chapter that our Lord picks out some men to be His Apostles.
What He's doing here is calling men to serve Him or to be His disciples.
The message therefore, is this: Jesus Christ calls every Christian to serve Him. Or, to put it another way, Being saved means discipleship.
I have a book at home by a man named John Phillips (thankfully, he's not my dad or my son!). It opens with something to this effect: There are millions of Christians in the world, but very few disciples of Christ. You know what he means, of course: Many people profess faith in Christ, but most of them don't serve Him in any meaningful way. And even fewer-a tiny minority-give their whole lives to Him.
I hate to bad-talk the family name, but that is not what the Bible teaches about salvation and discipleship! It teaches that salvation and discipleship are just two ways of looking at the same thing! To have your sins forgiven means serving Christ. Persevering to the end means going to heaven. There is no Higher Authority than Christ, and that's exactly what He says about it:
"Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord', shall inherit the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven".
Are you a disciple of Christ? I know you're not perfect-as we'll see as the story goes on, Peter, James, and John weren't either. But that's not the question: Are you perfectly devoted to Christ in thought, word, and deed? Of course you aren't-nobody is outside of heaven!
But are you a disciple? Are you taking His Word to heart? Do His commandments affect your everyday life?
When it comes to marriage-let's say-are you submitting to Christ or to what you want to do?
Does the Lordship of Christ have any affect on your career choices? Or is it all about you?
How has Christ changed your spending habits? And, please, include giving to the church--but don't limit it to that.
In other words, why "Do we call Him, Lord, Lord, if we do not do the things that He says?"
THE CALL OF CHRIST
Does the Lord call everyone to serve Him? No He doesn't! Most people, He calls to repentance-that is to renounce their own ways and to trust Him alone for their salvation.
But if you have repented, He does call you to service. And it doesn't matter if you're a pastor or a janitor, a missionary or a CPA. The Lord calls all of His people to serve Him.
Our verses tell us something about His call.
The first thing to note about His call is it's very rude!
Peter, James, and John were fishermen. That's what they had been trained to do and its what they did for a living. Maybe it's not the best job in the world, but it was their job-and they were good at it.
But the Lord couldn't care less. He didn't care what they wanted to do; He didn't care about their background or aspirations or career dreams, He just butted right into their personal lives and said, "Follow Me".
This is not the only time He did it. Nothing is more personal than your finances, but He commanded a rich man to "Sell your goods, give to the poor, follow Me, and you'll have treasure in heaven".
If you think this is rude, you ain't seen nothing yet. A man came to Him, promising to follow, but only after he buried his dear father. But the Lord is not impressed by his devotion to family, "Let the dead bury the dead, but you come and follow Me".
As Creator and Lord of All, Jesus Christ has unlimited rights over your life. He can mess up your plans, stomp on your dreams, and cut your dearest ties.
The call of Jesus Christ is rude, intrusive, and meddling. But that's not all it is:
It is also a promising call.
The Lord told Peter and his friends to quit fishing-their only way of making a living. But just before they do, He gives them the biggest catch ever made on the Sea of Galilee.
This was a hint of things to come. If the men give up their lives, they won't end of the losers for it. Jesus Christ will give them far, far more than they could have ever gotten on their own.
Some time later, Peter was rather proud of himself for giving up his fishing business to follow the Lord, but the Lord wouldn't allow him a martyr's complex,
"See, we have left all and followed You! Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one Who has left house or brothers or sisters Or father or mother or children or lands For My sake and the Gospel's Who shall not receive a hundredfold In this life-houses and brothers and sisters And children and lands-with persecutions- And in the age to come, eternal life".
Life is like Jello. The tighter you hold on to it, the less you have of it! Hand over your life to Christ, and you'll find that in giving it up, you get it all back-only way, way better!
William Carey gave up shoe-making to become the greatest missionary in the modern world. And other people-people whose names don't show up in books-have made the same sacrifice only to receive far more than they ever had.
Do you remember the story of the little girl with the plastic beads? She loved her beads very dearly; she wore them every day, and showed them to all her friends. But one day, her father pulled her aside and told her, "Give me your beads". At first, the little girl was aghast at what her father asked of her. But he said it again, more firmly this time. With tears welling up in her eyes, she took off the loved plastic beads and handed them to her dad. He then took out a strand of pearls and put them on her.
You see, pearls don't go with plastic beads. Until she gave up the trinket, she could never have the necklace. But she had to take her father. We have to trust our Lord Jesus Christ. When He says, "Give Me everything you have", we have to believe that He will more than compensate us for it.
He will. We have His Word on it. The call of Christ is a promising call.
It is also a gracious call.
Peter said, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man". The Lord did not contradict him. In fact, He knew Peter was far worse than he thought he was!
Yet this is the sort of man He wants to serve Him-a sinful man! If the Lord were looking for angels to serve Him, He wouldn't have come to earth!
But it is not angels He calls to serve Him, but messed up, stupid and sinful Christians! He's stooping pretty low for Peter and friends. But, as the story unfolds, we'll see Him stooping even lower. He calls publicans, prostitutes, demoniacs, rebels and all kinds of other riffraff!
We often say salvation is by grace alone! And that's true-it is. But so is serving Christ. No one is too stupid or bad or messed up to do that. No, the fact is, we're too smart to serve Him, too good, too "together" to serve Him. If we felt more like Peter did that day, we might serve Him like Peter did.
The call of Christ is gracious-
"Not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble".
Finally, the call of Christ is noble.
I guess fishing for a living has its charms. But catching men for heaven is better than catching fish for the market! That was the trade-off!
Give up fishing for fish and Christ will give you a better catch! Asahel Nettleton was America's greatest evangelist. He was called to his work while working the plow on his father's farm. He liked farming, actually, but it one day it occurred to him, there is another harvest I might reap. He set his hand to the Gospel plow-and never turned back! He won many thousands to the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is what the Lord calls us to do: the scale may be different, but the work is the same. He tells us to commit ourselves entirely to Him, and as a result, we'll catch men.
Programs, techniques, dynamic leadership have roles to play in the work of evangelism. But it is not they that win sinners; it is devotion to Christ. One who loves Christ will also love to tell others about Him. The Gospel itself-supported by a holy and enthusiastic life for Christ-will bring in a catch bigger than the one seen on the Sea of Galilee that day.
The harvest is plentiful; the catch is big. Now, let's go out and get it. By following Christ.
God bless you everyone.
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