Leaving Nets, Boats and Fathers

Matthew 4:18–22 (ESV)

18While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.

19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

20Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

21And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.

22Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Calling of the Apostles

Picture what’s happening here. A stranger comes walking by and then all of a sudden just tells you to quit your job, and then follow him. Would you just suddenly give up your job like this? Perhaps not. And then he walks up further, and does the same thing all over again. If we analyze the verses again, the only thing that Jesus said was: “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” I would like you to try that, this week. Maybe approach somebody, and tell them to quit their job and just follow you because you want them to be fishers of men. I wonder how many would follow you.

What would make you want to quit your job suddenly? Perhaps if it was Bill Gates, telling me “if you quit your job right now, I will give you $1 billion,” I will quit. Wouldn’t you? Bill-Gates-500x300But then let’s rethink, maybe even if it was Bill Gates that tells me that, I would not be too quick. Verses 20 and 21, states that “Immediately they left” what they were doing. Not even Bill Gates would arouse that quick a turn around. First, I would want to know why he is doing that. Why is he even offering me that? There would be 1000 questions before you would even do what these four men did, that is, immediately leave what they were doing for the sake of a stranger that invited them to become fishers of men.

THE MIRACLE OF JESUS’ CALL

You see, the Bible most of the time, understates its narratives. There is no lo and behold statements around these five verses, but when we look closely on what is happening, this passage is so amazing. You who have jobs know how it is so fearful how to transition in another job. But what causes four men to suddenly just quit and follow this stranger? I suggest that you look beyond the understatement. This is a miracle -an extraordinary one. It’s no wonder why both Matthew and Mark uses the word, “Immediately” because the response was indeed immediate. It was instantaneous. Perhaps when Jesus said follow me they were captivated by Jesus. Unexplainable. Just plain miraculous.

Why were they captivated? We would probably have 1000 answers to that question. But here is one thing very clear in verse 19, Jesus called them to follow him. And here’s one thing true when Jesus calls you: it’s a miracle. There is no genuine discipleship without captivation with the beauty of Jesus Christ. And here in these verses we see how that happens: it defies explanation by earthly standards.

THE COST OF JESUS’ CALL

When we read these five verses, we see also the cost of following Jesus. It would make you leave your net, as in verse 20, and it would also make you leave your boat, and it can make you also leave your father. We can speculate that this occupation is what probably what Peter Andrew James and John grew up. This is all what they know probably. This is probably what they were raised on. But they left it – because they knew in their hearts, probably unspoken and still nebulous, that they are speaking with the maker of the seas.

“Follow me,” He said and they left everything. There is a cost to following Jesus. We remember Peter suddenly realizing this on a separate occasion when he said in Luke 18:28 “we have left our homes and followed you.” There is a miracle when Jesus calls you. You leave something behind. And yes in verse 22, it even said, James and John, left “their father” too.

For what does Jesus call his disciples? Verse 19 says, “I will make you fishers of men.” To be a disciple then means you are a fisher of men and women. Towards what? In the last part of Matthew chapter 28,

18….Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

To be a disciple then means being a discipler, that is a teacher of all what Jesus commanded. Which makes me want to pause for a while and makes me ask you these questions:

  • Were you called by this Jesus? Is Jesus captivating to you? I tell you what, if you are here and you are ‘following Jesus’ because it’s what’s right or it’s what your family wants you to do, then I invite you to really reconsider. Were you called by this Jesus already? If you answer No, not yet. Then I pray that you come to a point where He calls you. “But I’m never good enough for Him to call me!” you say. No! No! Your goodness is never the measure of his calling. Call on Him, on who has said, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” And some of you would probably tell me, “Well, I guess I have to follow Jesus or I will go to hell if I wont.” If the driving force on your ‘following Jesus’ is fear, you better just stay on your nets and your boats. You follow Jesus because you fear punishment? You are not really following Jesus. You are keeping your safety, your boat, your net, in check. Is Jesus beautiful to you? Are you attracted to Him? I hope your answer is Yes.
  • If you however answer Yes. Let me ask you another set of questions: Are you fishing men and women for Him? “Well, that’s not my job. I have our Pastor do that for me. I give my tithes. Let the pastor do it.” Really? Are you really a disciple? “Well, I love Jesus and He is beautiful to me. I just… you know…” You know what causes that? You know what causes you to go back on your boat and nets, so to speak? It’s forgetting who Jesus is: The Mover of the sea. Yes, all your waters. You think your river is wide and it is deserving to be occupied with it. You have forgotten, who owns it, and all the oceans. You were like the Israelites who have forgotten who parted the sea for them. You have forgotten the call when He called you and said, “Follow me.” You have merely treated the Savior as a stranger walking near your seashores.

Going back to the passage you see, what Jesus does when he genuinely calls his disciples – these four men for example. It’s like Jesus was saying, “Hey, I OWN you.” And as if these four guys, just said IMMEDIATELY, ‘Indeed!” like they were British soldiers in chorus.

THE MEDITATION OF JESUS’ CALL

“But my question is,” you say, “how do we keep being like that?” There’s no one way to answer that question but here’s my answer: definitely not by our own willpower. Here’s my other answer which I think is better: By looking back at the verses – that we be ready listen to this Stranger’s voice of call towards us. That we get to know Him more, to see Him more, THROUGH Scripture. “To walk by the sea” and meditate. I don’t know about you, but here’s one thing true about me: whenever I am near a great big body of water, like a river, or sea, or when I am on a plane and I see how vast the ocean is, it forces me to think, to meditate. Perhaps the view of immensity is a part of that – of something bigger than us. Big bodies of water represent something so present and real yet so incomprehensible. Have you ever sat on a sunset at the beach? I once saw two comedians crying as they view the sunset on a beach, and they couldn’t help it! You who have seen it know it. And then when you hear the rustling waves, and the ebbs of tides as they run to the shore you can’t help but think, to be more serious.

Revelation 21:1 (ESV) tells us:

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

You know why the sea would be no more? Because in the end, Someone bigger that the seas would come. He had come and these disciples couldn’t figure out why suddenly they’re leaving their nets, their boats, their father. But here is Jesus: bigger than all the sea they were spending their lives fishing at. He is the ultimate Sea.

And here is something you should bring home as you think about these five verses as you go. We always think about these four men who left their occupations and their father. We always think of the costs of being a disciple. But perhaps by Him, we can follow. In fact, thru Him we CAN follow.  Pause and consider, there is Someone who left his heavenly occupation and left his Father, immediately when His time came. Do you know why? ….. So He could fish for YOU. You, who He followed for and will never let go.

The World Food Expo and the Grace of God

The Philippine World Food Expo ended today. There was food in every corner, in every size and shape, and taste. There were also various food machineries. And as usual, where there is food, there are people.  As I accompanied my wife in this sort of trips, I found myself contemplating on some spots I saw, especially the freebies. They made me think of grace.

It became apparent as I observed it that where there is a pack of people, there is free food. Of course, it is a World Food Expo and you would expect food. Not just food, but good food. After all, you pay a 100 peso entrance fee for it. Not that free food tastes are required for every booth, but you would expect that some would have free pageantry of their wares, mostly food.

And then I thought: I wish this is the same reaction to grace! Because grace is free! Take it!

I mean grace of the sort spoken by the Bible as saving grace. The sort of what the Reformers like Martin Luther called as the Sola Fide component of what they believe as the Five Solas.

The Bible says this:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Eph 2:8-9 ESV)

Salvation is a gift. It’s free. So why doesn’t this freebie sell so well?

Perhaps for the most of us, we don’t feel too hungry for something that claims that saves us. In a world filled with many gospel substitutes, there is so little place for the gospel that really satisfies the soul. We have a hunger but not for that. Our quest for our portions of money, fame, and fortune can really give us fillers for that hunger that we feel and yet deny. And yes, as I think about it, even food can be a filler for that hunger – that gnawing hunger of the soul.

We are all hungry. We are just trying to satisfy that hunger differently. The Reformers called the process of being made aware of that hunger as regeneration. And yet we all have that hunger, and as long as we are not regenerated as to what the hunger is all about, there would be fillers, because we are truly hungry.

Ah yes among the fillers, finally there is religion. Religion is satisfying because it makes us believe we can please God with our own abilities. Our prayers, our Bible-reading, our good works, our charity, our gifts to the church, our lending money to friends, our taking care of our children, our being good models and citizens, our contribution to the education and advancement of people, our good works:  all are going to be used by God as the grounds whether we would be saved. God would balance all those against our sins, and in the end, if the good outweighs the bad, you’re saved! You earned it!

You earned it! Wrong! Remember, the verse about it being a gift? A gift is not a gift if you earned it.

Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Eph 2:9 NLT)

But now, as I’m writing this, perhaps the reason why so many flock to this Free Taste stalls is that the goodie doesn’t really cost anything.

Free bread? Why not? Follow the man! Perhaps too, this is the common concept of grace today. What Dietrich Bonhoeffer callled cheap grace.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. (Joh 6:26 ESV)

Salvation is free yes, but it’s not cheap. It was bought with a price. It would yield evidences, it would yield fruit.

Following Jesus isn’t cheap. It would cost you your life. It’s not a freebie thing without effects. It’s a kiss and at the same time it’s a kick that makes you move. It is never a dead meat.

Salvation is a freebie food. But it’s a food that would make you kick fences of sin in your backyard. It’s so potent because its ingredients are the flesh and blood of someone who said He is the Son of God. It’s beneficial effects are guaranteed.

It’s either that or the claim of any stall offering it as a freebie without its life-changing effects are fake. This is freebie food to change us – Food from Heaven that satisfies.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.
(Joh 6:26-27 ESV)

Well, just to serve you a food for thought. Take it.

A Common Calvinistic Weakness

Have you ever met a Calvinist? Well, in the first place, what is a Calvinist?  It would take a lot of words to define what a Calvinist is.  But here is a funny definition.  A Calvinist is someone who is an unconditionally elect lover of books and theological thought.

In other words, one of his weaknesses as I said in an earlier blog is: love for books.  Here is the typical one:  I was requested by a brother who is groomed by the Lord for ministry to buy books for him.  I bought him the best books I can find in the conference and here is my top pick:

Honestly, as I read it, I am so tempted not to give it, hehehe… This material is so good.  Oftentimes, when you are exposed to the theology of the Cross, you think you know enough already.  This book belies that.  Even if you know so much of the Cross, the essays here provoke deep thought and rethinking that if you are alive, there would be inevitably fresh insights.  Like fresh blood oozing out of your hands if you pierce nails thru them.

Here are partial blurbs of it:

“Here is vintage J. I. Packer accompanied by some younger friends. The magisterial but too-little-known essay ‘What Did the Cross Achieve?’ is itself worth the price of the whole book. And there is much more besides. Here, then, are gospel riches, and In My Place Condemned He Stood marks the spot where the buried treasure lies. Start digging!”
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina

“The essays in this volume by Packer and Dever are some of the most important things I have ever read. If you want to preach in such a way that results in real conversions and changed lives, you should master the approach to the cross laid out in this book.”
Tim Keller, Senior Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City

“This book contains some of the finest essays that have ever been written on the death of Christ.”
David F. Wells, Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

“Every student and pastor should own this volume, for the contents are so precious that they deserve more than one reading.”
Thomas R. Schreiner, Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Writing with the precision of learned theologians and the passion of forgiven sinners, J. I. Packer and Mark Dever explain the meaning of atonement, substitution, and propitiation-not just as words, but as saving benefits we can only receive from a crucified Savior.”
Philip Graham Ryken, Senior Minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia

The Kindness and Severity of God

Here’s a sermon I preached recently in Bacolod. It’s about the kindness and severity of God.  The longest Bible Reading perhaps that you would hear in a sermon.

It’s in tagalog though.  Sana’y pagpalain kayo despite the limitations.

Para po sa mga gustong magdownload, heto ang link:

The Kindness and Severity of God