In the last series we challenged you to take the next step in your spiritual growth. We encouraged you to become more like Jesus. Then we started thinking…How can we encourage people to become more like Jesus if they don’t know what Jesus is like? Throughout the Bible Jesus encourages people to “come and see”, to follow Him and learn from Him. So many people go through the spiritual motions, but they don’t actually see, they just glance. Last week, our family went to a play that involved some of our grandchildren. Elenore, one of my grandkids, was sitting next to me, and while I was talking with one of my daughters she said, “Pops, look at my new shoes.” I glanced her way very quickly and said, “very nice”. Her response was classic, “No, pops, actually look.”
So, as we go through this series I want you to actually look, and I want to start with His call to discipleship. What is He calling you to? Before you can be like Him, you need to understand what it means to be His friend and follower. I think the twenty-first century church is losing its way. The early church understood what it meant to follow Him, to sacrifice for others, to give of themselves. They understood the concept of radical self-sacrifice. A story that I found illustrates this.
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks were frequent, a crude little life-saving station was built. The building was just a hut and there was only one boat, but the few devoted crewmen kept a constant watch over the sea. With no thought for themselves they went out day or night tirelessly searching for any who might need help. Many lives were saved by their efforts.
After a while the station became famous. Some of those who were saved, as well as others in the surrounding area, wanted to become a part of the work. They gave time and money for its support. New boats were bought, additional crews were trained, and the little station grew. Some of the members became unhappy that the building was so crude. They felt that a larger, nicer place would be more appropriate as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So, they replaced the emergency cots and the hospital beds, and put better furniture in the larger building. Soon the station became a popular gathering place for its members to discuss work, and to visit with one another. They continued to remodel and decorate until the station more and more took on the look and character of a club. Fewer members were interested in going out on life-saving missions so they hired professional crews to do the work on their behalf. The life-saving motif still prevailed on the club emblems and stationery, and there was a ceremonial lifeboat in the room where the club held its initiations.
One day, a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the hired crews brought in many boatloads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty, bruised and sick, and many were different from the people in the club. The beautiful new club was terribly messed up, and so the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside where the shipwrecked victims could be cleaned up before coming inside. At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities altogether because they were so unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted on keeping life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that after all they were still called a lifesaving station. But those members were voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives they could begin their own station somewhere down along the coast.
As the years went by the new station gradually faced the same problems the other one had experienced. It too became a club, and its lifesaving work became less and less of a priority. A few members who remained dedicated themselves to lifesaving. They in turn began another station. History continued to repeat itself and if you visit the coast today, you’ll find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent there but most of the people just drown now.
Sadly, that often represents the twenty-first century church. We are called to be a lifesaving station, but so many churches have turned into clubs that are designed to entertain their attenders. And I’m not just talking about mega-churches. We (the church) have forgotten our primary mission; to love God and to love those around us. The Bible says that Jesus, knowing that He was going to die, chose 12 disciples. He picked them, equipped them, and convinced them that through His power, they could follow Him and carry on His dynamic work after He was gone. He called them to establish life-saving stations. He called them to reach out to those who were drowning. We are called to do the same.
Throughout this series my goal will be to convince you to become more like Jesus, and to continue His lifegiving and lifesaving work.
In Matthew 4:18 we read, “While 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. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And 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. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.”
The first thing Jesus did was call them. But if we look closer, there were three distinct callings.
First: the call of the Gospel. It was a call to salvation.
This was not the first time they met Jesus. In the first encounter in John 1 they asked Jesus where He was staying and He told them, “Come and See”. In verse 40 it says that Andrew says to Simon, who is Peter, “Peter, we have found Him of whom the prophets spoke. We have found the Messiah.”
Jesus is calling people to have a personal relationship with Him. He’s inviting people into His life. He’s inviting them to come and see.
Second: the call to discipleship. It was a call to be a learner.
This is a very large group of followers.
But then there were the twelve. Luke says, “He called the twelve whom He also called Apostles.” Jesus invested a lot of individual time into this unique group. They followed Him around. Wherever Jesus went, that’s where they were. I love who He calls. Not just the powerful and influential. He also calls a few fishermen. Think about it for a second. Why would he call fisherman? What are their qualities?
First, fishermen are patient and relentless. If you like to fish, you know that sometimes you need to sit and wait for hours.
Recently I went fishing with my two-year-old granddaughter Layla and my son, Josh. Layla had a unique way of fishing. I would not characterize it as patient. She wanted to hold whichever fishing rod had a fish on it. If you hooked a fish, that became her fishing pole. I would say it was no-wait fish catching.
True fishermen are often patient and relentless.
Second, fishermen need courage.
In those days their little boats were no match for the waves that often pounded them. The Sea of Galilee had tremendous storms, but fishermen needed to go out. In the same way, if you want to serve like Jesus and love like Jesus, you need to have courage, because sometimes investing in people is not easy, not convenient, and can even be emotionally painful.
Third, fishermen need to have knowledge and flexibility.
You need to know what bait to use for specific fish. Fishermen often need to be unorthodox in their approach.
(A news story makes my point quite well. Please take time to watch – https://wgntv.com/2017/05/30/record-setting-bass-caught-with-chicken-nugget-from-mcdonalds/ )
If you are going to be like Jesus, you need to learn to understand people, so you can better reach and serve them.
In 1 Cor. 9:19 Paul says, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” Verses 22-23 continue, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
Jesus took these qualities, fishing in Galilee, and translated them into reaching out with love to other people. God can use your gifts, talents, and abilities to impact the world for Him. And I’m going to be bold enough to say that if you’re not using your gifts, talents, and abilities for God you’re dishonoring God and sinning.
Third: the call to significance.
Luke 5:1-11 says, “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gen-nes-aret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”
As you read this passage you realize that Jesus called these men to significance, to something more, something better. He takes these fishermen and uses their gifts for a greater purpose, investing in the lives of others. He makes them fishers of men. He invited them to serve by His side as part of God’s epic story. And that’s what He calls each one of us to do. He takes our spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality and experiences and uses them for a greater purpose. Jesus is leading our church body to something dynamic, something meaningful. His call to discipleship is radical. He is calling together a group of people who are willing to follow regardless of the cost. A group of people with a passion to first change themselves and then change the world. Grace Chapel is on the move. Our vision is clear, and like Jesus, our strategy is unorthodox. We are going to use the gifts of each member to impact our community, our nation, and our world with the love of Jesus Christ.
Sunday morning is only one point of connection. We are going to use this campus every day, and in every way that allows us to touch lives. We are in the process of changing the exterior of our facilities to make them more inviting and easier to navigate. We are expanding the ORCA co-working space to reach more people in the marketplace. We will be adding a commercial kitchen in the Impact Center to allow us more opportunity for jobs training, cooking and nutrition classes, and community outreach opportunities. Our campus is now the site for the Mason Farmers Market (ORCA Market). We were asked to work with the US Dept. of Health and Human Services in Washington DC to look at ways to create jobs and develop entrepreneurship for those coming out of prison and recovering from opioid addition. Finally, we are working with the Federal government in Nigeria and with the United Nations to solve the ecological and economic disaster that is ravaging the state of Kano due to water contamination from tanneries. Grace Chapel is a church that has been called by God to solve real-world problems that impact lives. But we will only scratch the surface if we become a social club instead of a life-saving station. If we are more concerned with our comfort than with His calling.
I pray that we at Grace Chapel will continue to accept God’s challenge to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Amen?