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.

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John Macarthur vs. the Reformed Confessions

After purchasing a new book on Reformed Theology, one pastor friend looked at me warily and said, “Brod, be careful ha.” He was a John Macarthur follower. In fact, when I say that he is a Macarthur follower, I think I’m understating.  We call him actually, Pastor Perry Macarthur (not his real name of course).  To him, the measure of truth is John Macarthur and his teachings.  Whatever John Macarthur believes and teaches, he believes and teaches. He even translates Macarthur sermons in Filipino and preaches them regularly in his church.  His devotion to John Macarthur is to that extent. (And yes, and I have not even started yet.)

Now let me be clear: I have great respects for Pastor John F. Macarthur, Jr. In fact, a long-term agnostic like me was called back to the faith by the Lord thru the radio ministry of Grace To You. God used that radio ministry to call me from my disillusionment while I was a student in UP. Last 2000, I had the opportunity to go to California and one of the first things that I prioritized was visiting Grace Community Church.  I shook John’s hand personally and thanked him because his program was used by God to convert me to Christ.

I told him about this and it was my impression he held a sob in his throat as I was relating my story. Maybe I was in a emotional fit too. I was perhaps overreading but nonetheless, I was incredibly blessed to have met such a humble man.

And then because of the path that John Macarthur has helped carve in my life, I was led to Calvinistic doctrines (which I didn’t know are Calvinistic because John does not really cite Calvin that frequently as I remember).  And when you’re a Calvinist, one of the addictions you develop is the love for theology books.

I guess I could say I have read some. Not that many, I must admit. But let me say that I have gathered a library with at least 5,000 titles of Calvinistic books and commentaries. There are too many books and too little time. Most of the time, I just skim thru them, so please don’t quiz me. I’m just an armchair Calvinist.

But I guess that too has led me to part ways with Pastor Perry. I didn’t part with him. He parted from me. When a John Macarthurite (his term, not mine) like him meets someone who reads the Westminster Confession of Faith, somewhere there would be an explosion of sorts. And I could say, he was not just contented to forget about our friendship. He even resorted to tell others of my warts and all (idiomatically speaking). For example, he was even angry with me for believing that a divorce is at times necessary and biblical as the WCF says. In Section 24 of the WCF, it states:

Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. (Matt. 1:18–20) In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce. (Matt. 5:31–32) and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead. (Matt. 19:9, Rom. 7:2–3)⁠1

He did not agree with this. According to him and (of course, originally I suppose) according to the speakers of the sessions of the Shepherds’ Conference (which Pastor Perry supplied me before the age of gty.org downloads), there would be no divorce if there is forgiveness from the offended party.  “The book of Malachi says, God hates divorce, so it’s not allowable.” At one time, he added, “Only the hard-hearted do divorce! That’s according to Matthew.”

Of course he did not listen when I told him that in the case of adultery, the guilty party is the only one hard-hearted and not the innocent one. He counters, “When the innocent party decides to divorce, he/she in turn becomes hard-hearted, that’s why he/she seeks divorce.”

If there is genuine forgiveness, there would be no divorce. Tough.

Very Roman Catholic. To my opinion, very much unlike the Lord Jesus Christ’s exception on adultery as an OPTIONAL (but not necessarily an automatic) grounds of divorce. For Christians to forgive their spouses is expected. But just like the WCF says, I believe that the act of adultery gives the option to the innocent party to seek divorce. We must forgive because we have been forgiven. But forgiveness is not sine qua non to keeping the marriage.

I think what really angered Pastor Perry was when I cited R.C. Sproul’s line: “God hates divorce, sure! But God hates adultery all the more, that’s why He allowed divorce.” In biblical times, if you committed adultery, you would be stoned to death, which frankly is worse than being divorced. On answering a query about the forgiveness issue, RC even has a better example: “If you are a Church Treasurer and you stole the Church money, I will forgive you but please don’t expect me if I would not help you be Church Treasurer again.” I agree. Adultery is a breach of trust more sacred than a Church fund.

After a number of disagreements, Pastor Perry chose to part ways with me. That was almost five years ago. I didn’t want to but I guess for him, there is too much at stake when you are friends with someone who does not really agree with all the interpretations he makes on Macarthur’s teachings. I say his interpretations because I am not even entirely sure Macarthur is as angry as he is about this issue of divorce that he would leave his friendships with his fellow pastors like RC Sproul if they disagreed with him.

I think we call this ugly thing, fanaticism.  Some can go to that extent and it’s sad. I pray for Pastor Perry. I love him and sometimes I must admit, I miss him. But, he would not just forgive me for disagreeing with John Macarthur (IF John Macarthur’s stand is really that there should absolutely be no divorce, which I don’t think is, to be honest about it). Divorce is an absolute no. Pastor Perry believes that. And for him, that is also the never-changing infallible teaching of God: NO DIVORCE, NO EXCEPTIONS.

Now, please don’t make the mistake that I’m espousing divorce, period. I believe that there are exceptions though that makes divorce valid. (And besides, I’m happily married.) I’m sad for Pastor Perry though. I think he has gone to the extent where it is unhealthy spiritually speaking. I don’t think he even gets Macarthur on this issue. Nonetheless, he would die on every hill, especially if he believes that hill was stepped on by John Macarthur.

Now, what reminded me of him recently was because of a discussion I had in a group. I’m a member of a Reformed Forum in which one thread of discussion went like this: John Macarthur belongs to a false church because his church does not satisfy the ‘marks of the true Church’ in the Belgic Confession. According to some in this forum, one of the marks that makes John Macarthur’s church false is that it does not practice infant baptism. The Belgic Confession in Article 29 states:

The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in chastening of sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself.⁠2

Now, I can accept that John Macarthur’s church is not a true Reformed church given the leanings of the Reformed confessions. But to say that John Mac’s church is a false church all in one-go, is too much. Even for the sake of discussion, if hypothetically I agree that infants should be baptized, I could not say to a Credobaptist that he belongs to a false church just because he does not baptize infants. And in fairness, the Belgic Confession does not say, “If a church does not practice infant baptism, it is a false church.” Granted, that the Belgic Confession says that the true church, “maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ” as opposed to the false church, the Credobaptist can just as much the same say, “It is the Paedobaptists that do not maintain the sacraments as instituted by Christ.” This has been the debate for centuries.  And mind you, the debate has not been resolved by having the Reformed people calling the Credobaptists, belonging to the ‘false church’ because they do not baptize infants.

Instead, I am elated when parties on the opposite sides of the fence, agree to celebrate what the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is, in spite of their differences. (Please tune the www.whitehorseinn.org, where they do not forget what their confessions say but they do exchange their differences winsomely without cruel talk, without calling themselves belonging to the true and the false. One is a Lutheran, one is a Baptist, and two are Reformed Professors.) It’s one of the rare places on earth where the great King is the Lord Jesus Christ in spite of their confessional differences. They do disagree, and I believe they must, but they don’t call each other belonging to the ‘false church’ because they differ.

Should we also say, "If it's not Belgic, it ain't Church?"

It’s one thing to use and even believe that the King James Version is the only Bible translation inspired by the Almighty Lord God, but it’s another thing to denigrate and call all others as ‘false translations’ publicly and openly just because they don’t fit your learned criteria.

In the same note, I believe that to be generalizing and to be jingoistic of those who do not share John Macarthur’s teachings is wrong. Pastor Perry does no ‘fellowship’ with the Reformed folks. I think if we reach the point where Pastor Perry has went, that’s already fanaticism. But I think I could say that too for some in the Reformed Confessions. To be jingoistic and generalizing about those who do not share the Reformed teachings to the extent that you say John Macarthur’s church is a false church is wrong too.  It’s very much like Pastor’s Perry’s fanaticism. It’s ugly. It’s sad but true: there are Pastor Perrys on every side of the fench. Yes, even on the side that calls itself Reformed.

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1 The Westminster confession of faith. 1996 (Chapter XXIV, 5). Oak Harbor, WA:

2 Historic Creeds and Confessions. 1997  (Article 12). Oak Harbor:

Asking Without Receiving

On commenting on 2 Corinthians 12:8, John Calvin meditates on Paul not receiving his prayer request.

Here is the August 24 Reading excerpt from the book 365 Days with Calvin: A Unique Collection of 365 Readings from the Writings of John Calvin (356 Days with)

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Asking without Receiving
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 2 Corinthians 12:8
suggested further reading: Mark 14:32–42

It may seem from this text that Paul has not prayed in faith, for we read everywhere in Scripture that we shall obtain whatever we ask in faith. Paul prays, and does not obtain what he asks for.

I address this problem by saying that as there are different ways of asking, so there are different ways of obtaining. We ask in simple terms for those things for which we have an express promise. For example, we ask for the perfecting of God’s kingdom, the hallowing of his name (Matt. 6:9), the remission of our sins, and everything that is advantageous to us. But when we think that the kingdom of God can, indeed, must be advanced in this particular manner or in that, and what is necessary for the hallowing of his name, we are often mistaken in our opinion.

In like manner, we often commit a serious mistake about asking for what tends to promote our own welfare. We ask for things confidently and without reservation, while we do not have the right to prescribe the means for receiving them. If, however, we specify the means, we always have an implied condition, even though we don’t express it.

Paul was not ignorant about this. Hence, as to the object of his prayer, there can be no doubt that he was heard, though he met with a refusal as to the express form of that answer. By this we are admonished not to give way to despondency in thinking our prayers are lost labor when God does not gratify or comply with our wishes. Rather, we must be satisfied with his grace in not forsaking us. For the reason why God sometimes mercifully refuses to give his own people what in his wrath he grants to the wicked is that he better foresees what is expedient for us than our understanding is able to apprehend.

for meditation: Even with the knowledge that God knows best, it is difficult to submit to his will when our prayers seem to go unanswered. We must pray for the grace to will what God wills and to leave it to his wisdom how he brings his will about. Are you trusting him with all your current concerns?

Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin: A Unique Collection of 365 Readings from the Writings of John Calvin (356 Days with)(page 255). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

God’s People in the Furnace

On commenting on “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48:10, Charles Spurgeon shares comfort to those who have been elected.

Here is the August 12 Reading excerpt from the book, 365 Days with C H Spurgeon, Volume 1: A Unique Collection of 365 Daily Readings from Sermons Preached by Charles Haddon Spurgeon from His New Park Street Pulpit

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God’s People in the Furnace

“I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”
Isaiah 48:10
suggested further reading: Isaiah 43:1–7

Beloved, the first thing I will give you is the comfort of the text itself—election. Comfort yourself with this thought: God says, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” “The fire is hot, but he has chosen me; the furnace burns, but he has chosen me; these coals are hot, I do not love the place, but he has chosen me.” Ah! It comes like a soft gale assuaging the fury of the flame. It is like some gentle wind fanning the cheeks; yes, this one thought arrays us in fireproof armour, against which the heat has no power. “Let affliction come—God has chosen me. Poverty, you may come in at the door—God is in the house already, and he has chosen me. Sickness, you may come, but I will have this by my side for a balsam—God has chosen me. Whatever it is, I know that he has chosen me.” The next comfort is that you have the Son of man with you in the furnace. In that silent bedchamber of yours, there sits by your side one whom you have not seen, but whom you love; and often when you know it not, he makes your bed in your affliction, and smooths your pillow for you. You are in poverty; but in that lonely house of yours that has nothing to cover its bare walls, where you sleep on a miserable straw mattress, you know that the Lord of life and glory is a frequent visitor; he often treads those bare floors, and putting his hands upon those walls he consecrates them! If you were in a palace he might not come there. He loves to come into these desolate places that he may visit you. The Son of man is with you, Christian.

Are Adversities in Life Punishments from God?

On commenting on Romans 8:35, John Calvin meditates whether adversities are God’s punishments on us.

Here is the August 5 Reading excerpt from the book 365 Days with Calvin: A Unique Collection of 365 Readings from the Writings of John Calvin (356 Days with)

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Shining in Affliction

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Romans 8:35

Those who are persuaded of God’s kindness toward them are able to stand firm in the heaviest afflictions. But people are also harassed by afflictions in no small degree for various reasons; some interpret afflictions as tokens of God’s wrath, while some think afflictions prove they are forsaken by God. Some see no end to trials and neglect to meditate on a better life. When the mind is purged from such mistakes, it becomes calm and quietly rests.

The meaning of this text is that, whatever happens, we ought to stand firm in believing that God, who having once embraced us in love, never ceases to care for us. The apostle does not simply say that nothing can tear God away from loving us, but that the knowledge and lively sense of God’s love is so vigorous in our hearts that it shines in the darkness of afflictions. For as clouds may obscure the clear brightness of the sun, yet do not yet wholly deprive us of its light, so God sends forth through the darkness of adversities the rays of his favor lest temptations should overwhelm us with despair. Indeed, our faith, supported by God’s promises, as if by wings, makes its way upward to heaven through all intervening obstacles.

It is true that adversities are tokens of God’s wrath when viewed in themselves, but when pardon and reconciliation precede them, we may be assured that though God chastises us, he never forgets his mercy. Adversity reminds us of what we have deserved, yet it also testifies that our salvation is the object of God’s care, which he extends to us while he leads us to repentance.

Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin: A Unique Collection of 365 Readings from the Writings of John Calvin (356 Days with)(page 236). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

Incredible! Mabuhay! Michael Horton in Manila

I have invited one of my virtual mentors, Michael Horton to come to the Philippines and he would be coming this January 29-30 to speak in a conference in Quezon City.

I pray that all of you who are reforming in their faith, who are fans of the WHITE HORSE INN, who love Calvinistic theology, to be there.

By the way, to be completely true here…I didn’t really invite him.  I was just led to find this website…(and that was not by accident, hehehe…Calvinistic me, hehehe…)

http://reformationph.com/?p=5