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Three Challenges to Discipleship

Pastor Douglas Shearer

Preached January 9, 2005

 

I’m continuing this morning with our topic “Biblical Discipleship” – which will be our church-wide theme through March 6th. The following week, on March 13, we’ll begin a nine week series on the theme of “Proclamation.”

I’m putting Luke 5:1-11 up on the screen for you to look over.

So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret (which is the Sea of Galilee),

and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.

Then He 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.

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.”

And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.

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.

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. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”

So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

Luke 5:1-11

I’m only going to be examining with you this morning verses one through five; but I wanted to read all eleven verses to you so you can get the feel of the whole passage. Next week, I’ll try to get to verses six through eleven.

Let me begin by saying that I don’t know of a passage of scripture that lays out the meaning of discipleship as succinctly yet as fully as this passage – Luke 5:1-11; especially verses one through five. Just about all the features of Biblical discipleship are included in this simple passage – especially how the Holy Spirit leads a person into discipleship.

Let’s look together now at verse one.

So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret . . .

Luke 5:1

Here we have a great multitude surrounding Jesus – men and women who are jostling one another to get closer to him; they’re swarming around him – pressing up against him. The word “multitude” in Greek – which is the language the New Testament was originally written in – denotes an amorphous crowd – a crowd composed of men and women of different interests. It’s not a crowd that’s unified and single-minded – made up of only one kind or one specific class of persons.

  • Some of the men and women surrounding Jesus here in verse one are simply curious – drawn to Jesus not necessarily because they’re interested in the Kingdom of God, but because they’re attracted by the sensationalism that envelopes him – the stories they’ve heard of Jesus’ miracles – especially the healings he’s wrought. They want to catch a glimpse of the miracle worker. It’s Jesus Christ Superstar that they want to see
  • Some of them are no doubt more than merely curious; they’re seekers – men and women who are genuinely interested in hearing about the Kingdom of God. They’re spiritually sensitive and spiritually hungry; and want to know about God and the Kingdom the scriptures reveal the Messiah will inaugurate.

Let’s move on now to verse two.

. . . and he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.

Luke 5:2

What a remarkable verse this is – because it’s one of the keys to understanding the whole passage – all eleven verses – but especially verse four where Jesus tells Peter to launch out into the deep and let down his nets for a catch.

Why do you think the boats are idle – with no fishermen attending them? It’s because the time of day for fishing is long past. Any attempt to fish at this time of day is by and large futile.

There are good times during the day for fishing and bad times; and here the time of day is bad, not good. It’s during the bad times that fishermen wash and mend their nets – which is exactly what verse two tells us they’re doing.

Let’s turn now to verse three.

Then He 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.

Luke 5:3

If this verse is read alone – with no attention paid to context – it might seem that it’s merely a coincidence that Jesus has chosen Peter’s boat. But context tells us that it’s not a coincidence.

Peter and Jesus are not strangers: they know one another. Peter has been attracted to Jesus’ teaching ministry for quite some time already. Indeed, the two of them have actually socialized in the recent past.

Back just a few verses in Chapter 4, verses 38 and 39, we’re told that Jesus had spent an evening in Peter’s home – and there he’d healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a burning fever. Clearly, then, Jesus and Peter are already linked together.

Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her.

So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. And immediately she arose and served them.

Luke 4:38-39

In all likelihood the two incidents – (1) where Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law and (2) where he’s teaching alongside the Sea of Galilee – here called Lake Gennesaret – are no more than two to three days apart.

But that doesn’t tell us why Jesus and Peter are already linked together, only that they are. To get to the “why” of it or the “how” of it, we need to turn to the Book of John – to an incident recorded there that probably took place a good six months earlier – south along the banks of the Jordan river at the time Jesus was baptized.

There we’re told that Andrew, Peter, and John – and probably James as well – had been followers of John the Baptist. That’s why Andrew was present when Jesus came to be baptized by John in the Jordan River.

John the Baptist, prompted by the Holy Spirit, recognized Jesus – that he was the Messiah – and pointed him out to Andrew – telling him, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” - an incident recorded in John, Chapter 1, verse 36.

Then, Andrew, after questioning Jesus and visiting his “camp-site,” hurries off to find Peter, his brother – an incident recorded in John, Chapter 1, verses 40-42.

One of the two who heard John speak, and followed (Jesus), was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).

And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, a Stone).

John 1:40-42

Let’s return now to Luke 5:3.

Then He 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.

Luke 5:3

So, what does context bring to verse three?

  • We know that Jesus hasn’t stepped into a stranger’s boat;
  • hat Jesus has known Peter for at least six months.
  • We also know that Peter is a believer – having confessed that Jesus is the Messiah along with Andrew his brother – a confession Peter repeats two years later.
  • It’s also quite likely that James and John, Peter’s cousins and fishing partners, are also believers, not just seekers, but actual believers. We know for certain that Andrew is.

So verse three tells us that there’s a third group among the multitude mentioned in verse one – not just two as verse one suggests, but three:

  1. First, those simply attracted to Jesus because of the sensationalism that envelopes him;
  2. secondly, those who want to know about the kingdom of God and are spiritually hungry, though not yet believers; and,
  3. thirdly, we have a much smaller group, believers – not merely seekers, but believers – among whom are Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

And here in verse three Jesus is speaking to all three groups without distinguishing between them – using Peter’s boat as a platform.

But now we come to verse four – where Jesus turns away from the multitude and focuses all his attention on one person – Peter, one of the believers. Here it is that Jesus invites Peter to become a disciple – to step beyond merely believing in Him to becoming a disciple. In short, a fourth group of persons is about to emerge from the multitude mentioned in verse one: disciples.

Verse four is a turning point; let’s look at it now.

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

Luke 5:4

Do you remember now what I told you about verse 2 – what it tells us about the time of day it is – that it’s not a good time of the day for fishing? Do you remember that? That’s why the boats are unattended and the fishermen are all washing and mending their nets. Nevertheless, after speaking to the multitudes from Peter’s boat, Jesus turns to Peter and tells him, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

Verse four is setting the backdrop for Peter’s call to discipleship. And it sets the backdrop for your call to discipleship as well. And in just a moment I’ll show you what I mean. Follow now closely.

Let’s look now at verse five for Peter’s response.

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.”

Luke 5:5

Notice that Peter’s response is in two parts. At first Peter protests. Why? Three reasons are given:

  1. First of all, he’s tired – he’s toiled all night long;
  2. secondly, he’s discouraged – his long night of toil has proven fruitless - he’s caught nothing.
  3. And, finally, his own expertise tells him that what Jesus is proposing is futile; it’s not the right time of day for fishing. And bear in mind that Peter’s expertise is very well founded – after all, Peter’s a professional fisherman with many long years of hard-won experience behind him.

In short, three obstacles are spelled out for us here in verse five that hinder Peter’s obedience – and I want you to notice each one very carefully.

  1. Fatigue.
  2. Discouragement.
  3. And personal expertise born of hard-won experience.

And isn’t that what hinders our obedience as well? Yours and mine? Not just Peter’s, but all of us? Like Peter, most of us here this morning are believers; but fatigue, discouragement, and our own personal expertise often born of hard-won experience work against us – hindering our obedience.

Have you ever noticed when you’re tired,

  • that you’re grumpy and “out of sorts”?
  • that you’re not apt to read your Bible?
  • that you’re not apt to pray?
  • that you’re not apt to attend church?
  • that you’re not apt to be faithful to whatever ministry God has called you to?
  • that you’re not apt to witness to your faith?
  • that you’re not apt to be truthful?
  • that you’re not apt to be ethical and moral?
  • that you’re not apt to be kind and patient?

Have you ever noticed that in your own life? I certainly have in mine.

And, likewise, when you’re discouraged – for whatever reason – when you’re depressed – when you’re feeling sorry for yourself, the same holds true -

  • that you’re grumpy and “out of sorts”?
  • that you’re not apt to read your Bible?
  • that you’re not apt to pray?
  • that you’re not apt to attend church?
  • that you’re not apt to be faithful to whatever ministry God has called you to?
  • that you’re not apt to witness to your faith?
  • that you’re not apt to be truthful?
  • that you’re not apt to be ethical and moral?
  • that you’re not apt to be kind and patient?

Isn’t that true? You’re a believer; you’re saved – meaning you’re justified – meaning God has forgiven your sins and given you a ticket to heaven; but fatigue and discouragement keep you from being truly obedient.

Saved, but not obedient. The church is filled today with believers who are saved, but who are too tired and too discouraged to be obedient. And that includes many of us here at New Hope. We’re often too tired and too discouraged to answer God’s call to obedience – too tired and too discouraged to answer God’s call to discipleship.

But it’s the third obstacle that requires our careful attention – because it’s the one that we’re most apt to overlook: our own expertise – often well founded – and our experience – often come by over many long years.

Here’s Jesus asking Peter to launch out in his boat and let down his net for a catch. And Peter’s expertise and long, hard-won experience tell him that what Jesus is proposing is futile – even foolish.

How many times have we disobeyed God because what he’s required of us seems

  • a little too much;
  • a little out of touch with what we know is best;
  • it’s what our own experience tells us is too radical;
  • too “out there;”
  • too “edgy;”
  • a little too unbalanced?

I want you to close your eyes for a moment and think along with me…

How many times?

Tired . . .

How many times have you not heeded the Lord’s call to obedience because you’ve been just a bit too tired? Rather than being obedient, you’ve concocted a reason for taking a break – a good, justifiable reason. Rather than being obedient, you’ve kicked back, you’ve sloughed off. After all, you’re just human; you’re not a superman. And in any event, a tired man is of no use to God. Right? “I need to hold to the boundaries I’ve set for myself,” you say.

How many times?

Discouraged . . .

How many times have you not heeded the Lord’s call to obedience because you’ve been a bit too discouraged; a bit too “bummed out;” feeling a bit too sorry for yourself?

How many times?

You know better . . .

Now, with your eyes still closed, how many times have you not heeded the Lord’s call to obedience because it runs counter to your own expertise and hard-won experience; because it runs counter to what you know is best? In short, how many times have you been sane and careful rather than faithful and obedient?

Let me ask that again: how many times have you been sane and careful rather than faithful and obedient?

How many times?

Here’s Peter – faced with all three of these obstacles to obedience at once – not just one; not just two; but all three.

1. He’s tired – and that tells him “No.”

2. he’s discouraged – and that also tells him “No.”

3. and his own expertise and hard-won experience are likewise telling him, “No.”

But look now at the second part of Peter’s response.

. . . nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”

Luke 5:5

That’s the mark of true discipleship! Obedience. Let’s be perfectly clear: the mark of a real disciple is…

  • a tough, no nonsense obedience;
  • an obedience that’s not fickle;
  • that’s not compromised;
  • that says “no” to fatigue and discouragement;
  • an obedience that’s sometimes questioning and occasionally doubtful, but is nevertheless carried out fully and thoroughly.

Once again, that’s the mark of a true disciple.

It’s not what you believe that makes you a disciple. Simple belief and nothing more is what justifies you; what secures your forgiveness and procures your sonship with God. But it’s not what makes you a disciple; it’s not what earns you God’s commendation; it’s not what earns you a reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

God wants a church filled with disciples – or, at the very least, believers-on-their-way-to-becoming-disciples. A church filled with disciples is…

  • an army;
  • an army that can engage in spiritual warfare;
  • an army that can contend with the devil for the lost souls of men, women, and children;
  • an army that God can fill with his own glory.

I’m going to be perfectly frank with you this morning. I think one of the worst mistakes we ever made here at New Hope – perhaps the very worst – and it’s mostly my mistake – is to have called ourselves a hospital for the sick and wounded – as if that’s all a church amounts to – a hospital for the sick and wounded.

And that’s what we became – that and little else. We became experts at caring for the sick and wounded. We were especially good at caring for broken marriages – well over one hundred – many of which other churches would have given up on or actually had given up on. We weren’t just good; we were very good!

But many of those couples – after having been attended to – after having been healed from their wounds and brought back to health – a good many of them, not all, but more than I could ever have imagined – simply carried on with their lives. They weren’t imbued with the desire and determination to become disciples – to pick up their Cross and build the Kingdom of God. And when New Hope was assaulted by the devil, they simply packed themselves off. Conflict wasn’t their “cup of tea.” They’d grown accustomed to hanging around the ward rooms we’d built for them – with nurses, doctors, and orderlies catering to their needs and attending to their comfort. There was no toughness; no steel-willed hardness.

Never again on my watch will I allow New Hope to be called a hospital – that and little else. Any church cultivating that kind of mind-set won’t produce Christians able to “fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith.”

  • We’re not first and foremost a hospital; we’re first and foremost an army of disciples.
  • Yes, we heal our wounded and care for our sick; but we do so in M.A.S.H. units – field hospitals that accompany every good army sent into battle.
  • And those who are sent to our M.A.S.H. units are ministered to with one purpose in mind – to get them back on their feet so that they can fight again – so that they can once again be sent into battle to contend with the devil for the lost souls of men and women who need to know that God loves them.

Peter’s call to discipleship here in Luke, Chapter Five, verses one through five, is a call to battle – a call to uncompromised obedience: “I’m tired; I’m discouraged; and, furthermore, Jesus, I don’t think what you’re asking me to do is reasonable; nevertheless, at your word, I’ll let down the nets.”

That’s the kind of men and women Jesus is looking for – not men and women who are hung up on “what’s in it for me,” who want the church to buffer them from suffering and keep them happy, but men and women who know that the church is meant to glorify Jesus Christ and who are willing to embrace suffering and persecution to build it.

God is happy you’re saved; the angels in heaven rejoiced when you asked Jesus into your heart; but now, it’s time to become disciples. Will you answer that call? Will you make that commitment?

God knows you’re not up to it; but he’ll supply the grace if you’ll supply yourself. If you report for duty, he’ll see to it that you’re trained and equipped.

The church here in America is held back by believers who are “believers only” – who are stuck at that stage of spiritual growth – who either have never heard the call to discipleship or who have indeed heard it, but refuse to answer it. Let’s “gird up our loins” and consecrate ourselves to becoming real disciples. Let’s go on from merely believing in Jesus to picking up our Cross and actually following Jesus.

 

 

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