Over the last two months we have journeyed through the book of Acts in the series “Compelled.” We began in Acts Chapter 2. The disciples were together for the day of Pentecost, a Jewish celebration, when the Holy Spirit came on them just as Jesus said it would. Verse 4 says “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as God gathered a crowd around them. A crowd that understood what the disciples were saying in their own native language. It was amazing.
And in verse 14 a man named Peter stood up and addressed the crowd with the gospel message and over 3000 were baptized. That day the Church was born, and millions of lives would be changed as generation after generation of disciples, all the way to you and me, would be compelled by God’s love to share the gospel message that God had come, Jesus Christ, God’s one and only son had come into the world to save us from our sin and bring us to relationship with God the father that we would have everlasting life.
Today I want us to go back three years from this moment in Acts Chapter 2, to the day when Jesus invited Peter to come and follow Him and Peter said yes.
In Luke Chapter 5, verse 1 Luke records for us. “One day as Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilea……..”
One day……. It was a day just like any other day. Peter and his men have parked their two fishing boats and are doing what they do every morning at the end of a long night of fishing – cleaning and mending their nets…. and they hear Jesus talking to this growing crowd of people along the shore of the sea of Galilee. Within an hour or two the crowd has pushed Jesus to the water’s edge and Jesus decides that if he could go out onto the sea a little, he could speak toward the shore and all the crowd could hear him and so Jesus steps onto Peter’s boat and says in verse 3, “hey Simon, will you put me out a little from shore so they can hear me a little better.” And when Peter does what Jesus asks, Jesus sits down and probably talks for two more hours while Peter sits there and waits.
Well into the day, the crowd disburses and then Jesus looks at Peter – OK Peter, now let’s catch some fish. Vs 4: “Peter, Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
I think Peter responded just like we would want to respond, only he said it out loud. "I've got this Jesus.... whatever you are going to suggest that I do, I've already tried it. I know this lake better than anyone…." Vs 5 “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything..." But it isn’t about the fish, is it?
The reality is that before we were ever born, God was working to bring us into relationship with himself. While we were lying alone in the depth of our sin, God was planning to save us. You see, this invitation right here in Luke Chapter 5, takes us all the way back to the Garden of Eden when the first man sinned against God and was separated from his presence. You may not see your life as all that sinful, all that different from anyone elses, but the penalty for sin isn't determined by our measure of it. It is determined by the magnitude of the one who we have sinned against. And because all of us have sinned against an infinately holy and eternal God, we are infinately guilty and worthy of eternal punishment. Yet Jesus comes and issues an invitation directly to you and to me - "Put out into deep, open up your life to me, and I'll show you life......"
This is the heart of Christianity, and we many times miss it when we describe our encounter with Christ. It is God who meets me right where I am and invites Me into Relationship with Him.
Jesus would later say of this encounter with Peter: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you." (John 15:16)(NIV) This is what God does in his grace, we see it throughout the bible from Noah to David, to Peter to you and me, God calls us into the deep and invites us to what we don't merit on our own. And there he waits for our response.
Peter’s response in verse 5: But because you say so. I’ll let down the nets.” Verse 6 says: “When they had done so, when they agreed to go deeper, let down their nets, it says they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” The unexpected happened - Jesus filled Peter’s empty fishing nets so full of fish he had to call for help and as help came the catch of fish threatened to not only destroy the nets, but sink Peter’s boat and the boat of his friends James and John.
And I think this is an important aspect of the invitation we need to understand: God's invitation seems to interrupt, even break up, some of the things that are important to me. Sometimes, following God doesn’t result in immediate happiness or pleasure. Sometimes it’s costly. Friendships change, how other’s view me changes, finances change as I give more away and have less for myself, time with my family changes, the value I place on possessions changes, infertility still exists, cancer still grows, addiction still knocks at our door. Sometimes new challenges come that never existed before……
In verse 8 Peter is overwhelmed with what is happening in his life. After he realized that his boat wasn't going to sink or his nets weren't going to break, he was overwhelmed by the reality of The catch of fish. More than enough to pay for the torn nets. More than enough to give him a few days off later in the week. But there was something more. He realized he was in the presence of someone more than a great teacher, a rabbi. He was in the presence of God. Verse 8 says “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)(NIV) Earlier Peter referred to Jesus as “Master”, Teacher, Rabbi. But now Peter calls him LORD!
Peter’s encounter with Jesus points us to the convicting power of God's presence. See, God's presence confronts the areas of my life that aren't holy. And Peter’s encounter reminds us of the fear that comes with all of this.
When you and I get on the boat with Jesus, when we put out into deep, when our lives start lining up with his plans, as things begin to change, we recognize that we are in the presence of God and all of a sudden we are convicted of the sin that once separated us, our disobedience, our desire to be in charge. And we respond one of two ways: We either say “Jesus, move away from me….” Or we say “Jesus, forgive me, clean me up, help me write the next chapter. I trust you and what you are about to say"……..
Jesus looked down at Peter who had his face buried in Jesus feet at this point and says in verse 10 “Don’t be afraid!” Don’t be afraid Peter. But
Jesus doesn't just say Don't be afraid, he invites Peter to the next step in verse 10: “from now on you will catch men.”
Don't miss this: God has a purpose for my life, and it is in moving past the fear and aligning my life with that purpose that I find completeness. Let me ask you – Could Peter have continued as a professional fisherman and been a great follower of Jesus? I think the answer is yes, Peter could have continued to fish. In fact, later in his story we see Peter fishing again with the disciples. But here is what I want us to understand. Peter is about to say Yes to Jesus invitation which meant that fishing was no longer his identity, it was no longer his #1 priority, following Jesus would be. When Peter said yes, Peter became a Disciple, a Follower of Jesus who was also fisherman. You see the difference?
In his book “Not a Fan”, Kyle Idleman suggests that we can define our relationship with Christ one of two ways: The first is that of a Fan: The dictionary defines A fan as an “enthusiastic admirer”. It’s the guy who goes to the college football game with no shirt and a painted chest. He sits in the stands and cheers for his team. He’s got a signed jersey and multiple bumper stickers on his car. But he’s never in the game. He never breaks a sweat or takes a hard hit in the open field. He yells and cheers, but nothing is really required of him. There is no sacrifice he has to make.
And the truth is, as excited as he seems, if the team he’s cheering for starts to let him down and has a few off seasons, you can expect him to jump off the fan wagon and begin cheering for some other team.
The second, is that of a Follower:
In Luke chapter 9, verse 23, Jesus defines the relationship we are to have with him as A Follower this way: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)(NIV), and at the end of the chapter, verse 57, Jesus interacts with 3 potential followers and this is what happens:
We read about the first man in verse 57. “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." (Luke 9:57) Notice he says I will follow wherever you go. He says to Jesus “I will follow you without reservation”. But look at verse 58: Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Jesus draws attention to the fact that being a follower isn’t always comfortable.
This man spoke words of commitment, but when Jesus painted him a picture of what that commitment looked like the man seemed to back off. I think there are a lot of people who have made a decision to believe in Jesus – but never really committed to Him. The cross we are to take up daily isn’t a cross of comfort, it is a cross of commitment:
We get frustrated in our efforts, we’re inconsistent, we fall off the wagon, we have good intentions, even try really hard. But trying isn’t enough. “Instead of trying every day, we need to die every day..” That's one of the many symbolic things about baptism that we need to accept the literalness of - When we are buried in baptism, our old self, us, we die, we leave that in the water. When we come up out of the water - he is living in us and through us. And the rest of our journey is about allowing Him to live.
1 Corinthians 1:18 says “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the Power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)(NIV). I would paraphrase it this way: “As followers, we find that giving up our lives gives us the life we so desperately wanted all along.”
Now, back to the three people Jesus introduces us to. In verse 59 we meet man number 2. “He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:59-60)(NIV)
Two words in that sentence I want you to notice. "Lord" and "Me". The first thing he does is put Jesus off. “Lord, I want to follow, I really do, but not right now. Now isn’t a good time for Me.” We treat our relationship with Jesus like the diet we keep meaning to start.
Ever done that with Jesus? Ever say, “I’ll start tomorrow…” “this is my last time…” “when I’m out of college…” “when I get married…” “when we have kids…” “when I get a less demanding job…” “When my life is less of a mess…” But the first thing Jesus calls us to do is "deny ourself".
Maybe you hear this man’s excuse for putting Jesus off – he wants to go bury his father – and you think Jesus is being a little too hard core. Let the guy go bury his dad. Well, most likely the father wasn’t even sick. This was a way for the man to say – when my parents die…then I will follow you. When I get the inheritance… when I know they won’t disapprove (anybody there?). But his excuse isn’t enough for Jesus.
The third man was very similar in verse 61: “Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God." (Luke 9:61-62)(NIV)
Both the second and the third follower are dealing with the issue of priority. But Jesus isn’t looking for half-hearted followers. Following him part-time isn’t an option. He has no interest in people who follow Him but are always looking over their shoulder wondering if they are missing out and second guessing their decision.
Luke Chapter 4, Verse 11 “Peter and his companions pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Jesus.”
Left Everything. Peter and these guys could have pulled up on shore and said – Thanks Jesus for the encouraging sermon. Thanks Jesus for that fish miracle you let us see out there today. Thanks Jesus for the catch of a lifetime that will buy us new nets. Yes Jesus, you gave us quite a scare out there, you made us really uncomfortable there Jesus, but all is well. When people ask about you, we will be sure and tell them what a great teacher you are. In fact, where are you preaching next week. We’ll try to show up and bring some friends with us.
For Peter and his friends, they decided to follow Jesus. Remember the old song: “I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. The world behind me, the cross before me, the world behind me the cross before me, the world behind me, the cross before me, not turning back, no turning back. Though none go with me still I will follow, Though none go with me, still I will follow……..No turning back no turning back.
And I’m thankful that Peter, James and John didn’t turn back. For the next three years they followed Jesus, they said yes to Him. Did they have set-backs, you bet they did. But because the followed Jesus, Peter stood that day in Acts chapter 2 and shared the gospel as thousands responded. And those thousands, compelled by God’s love shared the gospel, and thousands more responded. All the way to this moment today as the Gospel has been shared. Now it’s your turn to say yes, now it’s your turn to follow Jesus. Will you?
The invitation hasn’t changed. Jesus meets us where we are and says “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”