JESUS AND FISHING

jesus fisherman

 

From the very beginning, Jesus invited all of his followers into the his own mission: to reach the world with the good news of forgiveness and grace through Him. This was not true only for Jesus’ twelve apostles, or for those with a special call to vocational ministry, but also for every Christian.

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To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Matthew Part 9

 

 

Matthew #9. Chapter 4:17-25

The Light that came to Galilee in fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy was Jesus Christ himself. Matthew 4:17-25 records how he began his ministry. The essence of his message, at least at first, was much like the message of John the Baptist: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” I think that brief sentence summarizes the main point of Jesus’ first preaching in Galilee. He is trying to raise awareness that God is near, and actively working, and the appropriate response to the presence of God in our lives is to turn away from our sins and turn toward God. Jesus has not yet broadcast to the general public that He himself is God the Son, one of the Three Persons who make up the one true God. However, he is sending the message that God is at work and it is time for people to repent and submit themselves to God’s ruler-ship.

In verses 18-22, Matthew records an encounter between Jesus and four other men: Simon (Peter) Andrew, James and John. This was not the first encounter between Jesus and at least some of these men. Before John the Baptist was put into prison, he pointed Jesus out to Andrew and another unnamed person. Since it is the apostle John who records this (John 1:35-42) it is likely that he (John the apostle) was the unnamed person. Andrew introduced his brother Simon (who later became known as Peter) to Jesus. Peter, Andrew and John spent at least a day with Jesus at that time. So did two other individuals, Philip and Nathaniel. All this probably happened in Judea, south of Galilee, before John the Baptist was put into prison.

What this means is that Jesus was not a stranger when he called Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him. John the Baptist had told them he was the Messiah. They had spent time with him. They may have even heard some of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee (as recorded in verse 17) before he called them.

In fact, Luke 5:1-10 fills out this incident for us. Both sets of brothers made a living as commercial fishermen. Peter and Andrew were on shore, messing with their nets. Jesus, knowing them from before, borrowed one of the boats belonging to them, and used it as a platform to preach a sermon to a crowd that had gathered along the lakeshore. After he was done, he told the fishermen to try fishing one last time. Peter objected, but obeyed anyway. The result was a huge catch of fish – so large that they had to call in their partners for help. Their partners happened to be James and John. In fact the catch was so enormous, and the whole incident so unusual that the fishermen clearly regarded it as a miracle. When the fish were all in, Jesus called the four of them to follow him. He said their new job was to bring in people, not fish. They immediately left work and went with Jesus.

After this, Jesus continued to travel around in the region of Galilee, preaching. Apparently, Peter, Andrew, James and John went with him from that time forward. Jesus’ preaching was accompanied by miracles, especially healing and deliverance from demonic oppression. In a time before antibiotics or pain medications, the prospects of getting healing or relief were normally very dim. So, Jesus’ reputation as a healer drew huge crowds from all over the region, and even from Judea in the south.

Now, let’s unpack this text a little bit.

First, Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of Heaven and Repentance. By his death on the cross, Jesus made it possible for us to be forgiven. Many times he demonstrated God’s love and grace. Many times, he spoke about that same love and grace and goodness. But Matthew reminds us here that the very first thing he preached was repentance. Repentance opens the door to God’s love and grace. If we refuse to repent, the door stays shut, and God’s love doesn’t do us any good. When God comes near, the very first order of business is repentance. We covered the topic of repentance in some depth in part 5 of our series on Matthew. Some things are worth repeating, however.

To repent means to turn back, to go a completely different way. If you can read these words, it is not too late for you to repent. Jesus can handle whatever horrible thing you’ve done, whatever you’ve left undone, and even whatever terrible thing was done to you. But you need to drop it, to turn away from it, and turn to Him. To repent is to fully own the fact that you have been wrong, with no excuses, and then to turn away from it, for all intents, forever.

Now, our turning away forever almost never happens perfectly. But it does mean that you are going a different direction now. You may fall down sometimes as you walk in the new direction. You probably won’t walk it perfectly. But after you repent, your direction is different than it was before. Once in a while, perhaps, you fall back into the same actions as before. But your overall direction is new, oriented toward God, not away from him.

Many of you reading this blog have already repented and turned to Jesus, and received him as your Lord and your salvation. That’s wonderful. But for us who have done that, Jesus is still at hand. He still wants to show up in our lives in greater and more profound ways. He wants to give us even more grace, more joy, more peace, a more abundant life in Him. To receive these things from him, our path is the same: repent!

Now, let’s look Jesus’ call to the fishing brothers. I think there are two important things we find here. First, this demonstrates that Jesus has a unique calling for some individuals to leave ordinary employment, and work for him full time. We describe this as a calling to vocational ministry. Peter, Andrew, James and John (and others who came later) left their vocations and jobs, and dedicated themselves full-time to the mission of Jesus. Jesus asked them to do this. He did not ask everyone he encountered to do it, even if they believed in him, and became his disciples. Jesus once delivered a man from many demons. The man wanted to leave everything and become a full-time minister.

As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed kept begging Him to be with Him. But He would not let him; instead, He told him, “Go back home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:18-19, HCSB)

Jesus wanted the man to continue to follow him in faith; he wanted the man to engage in His mission and tell others the good news, but Jesus asked him to do it right where he was, in his everyday life.

Twenty years ago, I might not have bothered to point out that the four fisherman had a unique call to vocational ministry, and I doubt I would have thought it necessary to make the case that some Christians in every generation have a similar call. But in our post-modern, anti-authoritarian culture, I think we have gone too far. We are becoming so anti-institutional that many people have become suspicious of those who are called into vocational ministry. I’m not a fan of institutions or hierarchies myself. But the bible does clearly teach that God calls certain individuals to specially dedicate their lives to teaching and training other Christians.

Paul says:

Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not drink the milk from the flock? Am I saying this from a human perspective? Doesn’t the law also say the same thing? For it is written in the law of Moses, Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain. Is God really concerned with oxen? Or isn’t He really saying it for us? Yes, this is written for us, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes should do so in hope of sharing the crop. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material benefits from you? (1Cor 9:6-11, HCSB)

Don’t you know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel. (1Cor 9:13-14, HCSB)

James says this:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (Jas 3:1, ESV2011)

The author of Hebrews says:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17, ESV2011)

Ephesians 4:11-12 says this:

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-12, HCSB)

There are many more verses like this, which demonstrate the same point. Now, it is true that being called to full-time ministry does not make anyone a better or more important person. It is true that every Christian should be reading the bible individually, and engaging with others in the mission of Jesus. It’s true that every Christian should be willing and able to talk with others about Jesus. But there is a unique calling to teaching and equipping that is given to a relatively small number of people. I’ve seen individuals struggle and be led astray because some person just decided that he would start a church, or start preaching, without truly being called to it. I’ve heard and read a lot of bad, unbiblical teaching over the years because people have not appreciated that you should take a preaching/teaching equipping ministry very seriously; and few are called to it. I’ve also seen churches flounder because they reject a godly, biblical leadership model.

Now, I’m going to turn it around and try and have it both ways, because I think the text has it both ways. Just as this text shows us that some people are called uniquely to vocational ministry, it also shows us that everyone who trusts Jesus is called to participate in His mission. Not everyone is called to leave his or her career. However, all Christians are called to follow Jesus. For most, that means, among other things, expressing your faith and living for his purpose as you fulfill your everyday responsibilities at home and at work. It means being a disciple of Jesus when you are with your family, your friends, when you are at work, when you are driving, playing golf, fishing – in fact, all the time.

It is obvious that all New Testament Christians believed this and practiced it (Matthew 28:16-19; Acts 11:19-26; 1 Peter 2:12-15, 3:15-16). From the very beginning, Jesus invited all of his followers into the his own mission: to reach the world with the good news of forgiveness and grace through Him. This was not true only for Jesus’ twelve apostles, or for those with a special call to vocational ministry, but also for every Christian. For most Christians, the context for the mission of Jesus is your everyday life. Regardless, we should embrace that mission as part of embracing Jesus and his grace and forgiveness to us.

WHERE ARE YOUR INVESTMENTS?

moneyheart

Today let us live not as citizens of earth trying to make it to heaven, but like citizens of heaven sojourning on earth.

To listen to the sermon, click the play button:

To download, right click on the link (or do whatever you do on a Mac) and save it to your computer: Download Galatians Part 24

Galatians #24 . Chapter 6:6-10

Paul is finishing his letter with some practical instructions for Christian living, and for functioning as a church. Verse six is basically a command for the Galatians to provide material/financial support to those who teach them the Bible. It’s a little awkward, because in some ways, this passage is about me. I am a teacher/preacher of the bible. But I want to remind you of this: it is about you, too. You are one who is taught.

Before I dive into this, I want to make a deal with you. I will try to be as objective and “disinterested” about this as I can. I’ll try not to be self-serving in how I teach this. But here’s the deal – I want to ask the same of you. This passage is about you as much as me. So I’m asking you to try and be as objective as you can, and really listen to what the Lord wants to say to you. Try not to be self-serving in how you receive this.

For the record, I do believe that even if I received no money from teaching the Bible, I would still say the same things. More significantly, Paul said the same thing to a group of people from whom he refused to receive money: the Corinthians.

Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not drink the milk from the flock? Am I saying this from a human perspective? Doesn’t the law also say the same thing? For it is written in the law of Moses, Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain. Is God really concerned with oxen? Or isn’t He really saying it for us? Yes, this is written for us, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes should do so in hope of sharing the crop. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material benefits from you? If others have this right to receive benefits from you, don’t we even more?

However, we have not made use of this right; instead we endure everything so that we will not hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel. (1Cor 9:7-14, HCSB)

Paul chose not to ask for support from the Corinthians. Many Christians make a big deal out of that. I say, “Good for Paul.” But I want to point out two things:

First, Paul’s main point is that, properly, they were supposed to support him. None of what he is saying makes sense unless that is true. In other words, this passage from Corinthians teaches that the normal thing is for local churches to support local bible teachers, and apostles.

Second, though Paul supported himself through tent-making (or, leatherworking) for a short time when he was in Corinth, he did not do so for very long. After a short while, he devoted his full time to teaching the word (Acts 18:5). It is almost certain that Silas and Timothy brought gifts from other churches that allowed Paul to do this. So, though he was not supported by the Corinthians, he was supported by other churches during most of his ministry. In any case, the main point of the Corinthian passage is that it is God’s design that those who preach the gospel make their living at it.

1 Timothy 5:17-18 says,

The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says: Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and, the worker is worthy of his wages. (1Tim 5:17-18, HCSB)

Taken together, these three passages present a clear, consistent, unambiguous picture: Some people are called to be full-time Bible teachers and preachers; and in most cases these people are supposed to receive their living (financial and material support) from those they teach. This is good and right, both practically speaking, and in God’s eyes.

This isn’t a call for everyone who gets the fancy. It isn’t a frivolous thing to be a bible teacher. James wrote this:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (Jas 3:1, ESV2011)

In other words, this is a specific and unique calling, not given to every Christian, and perhaps not given to very many at all, proportionally, speaking. I will say from experience that it is not as easy as it looks from the outside. My advice to any people who are wondering if they are called to do this, is, try to do something else. Twice in my life I myself have tried to do something else, and the Lord has compelled me to come to back teaching and preaching. If you are called, you won’t be able to avoid it. So go ahead and try to avoid it, and see what happens.

In recent years, I have noticed that many people seem to look down people who are called to study, teach and preach the bible full-time. I’ve heard people mis-quote Paul from the Corinthians passage above, and suggest that no one is called to full-time bible teaching. For me, that only illustrates the need for good teachers, since it is the exact opposite of what the passage clearly says; and is in fact the opposite of the way Paul lived. I’ve seen many people who definitely should not have presumed to teach. Some people seem to think that any old fool can get up and talk about the bible. I suppose, in one way, that’s true, and you’ll hear almost any old foolish thing come out of their mouths. I’ve heard false teaching, and even heresy from such people. I would not want to be in their shoes when they have to explain themselves to the Lord. But the biblical position is that some few people are called to the unique ministry of teaching, and they should be provided for by churches, so that they can devote a great deal of time and prayer to it.

Every Christian should learn how to study the bible for himself or herself. We should all take personal responsibility for following Jesus and being better disciples. But that does not eliminate this special ministry of teaching. Ideally, we take what the teachers give us, and incorporate it into our own walk of faith. Paul’s point to the Galatians, Corinthians and Timothy is that the teacher offers spiritual blessing, and the churches offer material blessing in return so that the teacher can continue to give that spiritual blessing.

Both here in Galatians, and in the Corinthian passage, Paul refers to sowing and reaping. “Sowing” is another way of saying “planting seeds.” The bible uses it often to mean “investing for the future.” “Reaping” means “gathering the harvest.” It refers to getting the results of what you sowed.

There is no doubt in my mind that Paul is talking generally about where you invest your time, energy, talent and focus. However, there is also no doubt in my mind that he is also talking about how you use your money. Jesus talked extensively about investing earthly money in spiritual things. The entire parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16) is about that. Jesus summed it up at the end:

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous money so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings. Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much. So if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own? No household slave can be the slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t be slaves to both God and money.” (Luke 16:9-13, HCSB)

Jesus seems to be saying that you can use money (which he calls “unrighteous”) to gain a spiritual result. This isn’t about buying your way into heaven. It is about investing your money (along with the rest of the life) in spiritual, eternal things. He told the rich young ruler that giving money away could help him to have eternal treasure:

“If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” (Matt 19:21, HCSB)

Let’s be completely honest. We sow most of our money to the flesh. In other words, we generally spend money in ways that gratify our external, earthly desires, or the desires of our loved ones. When we do that, the payoff is in the flesh. That means our reward is temporary, fleeting and fading away. Gratifying your flesh now, gets you nothing in eternity. Jesus said:

“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21, HCSB)

And again:

“But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:31-34, HCSB)

Jesus actually suggests that we trade earthly money for inexhaustible, eternal treasure in heaven. Some people teach that if you give away earthly money, God will give it back to you, plus interest – in earthly money. Jesus doesn’t say exactly that. He tells us not worry about our physical needs, and tells us that we can invest in eternity with our earthly money. Again, this is not about buying your way into heaven. It is about weakening the connection between you and your flesh. It is about breaking the hold that money has on us, and strengthening the hold that heaven has on us. It is about consciously actiquarter in god we trustng as if your real treasure is in heaven; because it is. Every time you give money for spiritual purposes you are affirming that you are really a citizen of heaven. You are agreeing that your real retirement begins, not in your sixties, but after you shed your flesh through death, and step into the new creation.

One final thought, and this is why I took the time to talk about money here:

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. (1Tim 6:9-10, HCSB)

So, it is clear to me that Paul is saying, “Look, your teachers and preachers should receive support from you. And to spend money for a spiritual purpose leads to a spiritual result, an eternal result. You store up treasure in heaven for yourself when you do that.”

Now, I do think Paul is also talking about more than money. I think when he talks about sowing and reaping, he means this: “You can invest in the flesh, or you can invest in the Spirit.” We can spend our time, money and energy on self-gratification (flesh-gratification) or on spiritual things. Another way to invest in spiritual things, according to these verses, is to “do good,” and “work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.” The Christian church should be like a family, and we should consider it a priority to bless each other, and work for the good of each other. That’s a spiritual investment. Sometimes that may mean saying an uplifting word, or writing a note. It may mean helping someone fix their home or car. We could work for good for each other by staying in touch and encouraging each other, by sharing our time, knowledge and abilities with each other. There are many, many ways.

I’ve tried flesh-gratification from time to time. It never seems to last very long. It doesn’t produce any long term benefits even in this life, let alone for eternity. Paul says that investing in the spirit yields eternal life. I have noticed that when I invest in spiritual things, it begins to yield positive and lasting results, even now. Paul says, therefore:

we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. (Gal 6:6-10, HCSB)

Flesh-gratification is immediate. Sowing to the Spirit is a long-term proposition. Immediate results are fun, but we probably should not expect them. We shouldn’t expect the final and full results until after this mortal life is over. We Christians are a people of hope, and that means that our desires and investments come to fruition in the future, not now. As a friend of mine said on facebook this week:

Today let us live not as citizens of earth trying to make it to heaven, but like citizens of heaven sojourning on earth.

With that in mind, with our focus on the hope and life to come, we can ignore the call to self-gratification and seek instead, to bring good to others.