First Things First -- The Cost of Discipleship
Intro – This morning we are looking at an amazing passage of Scripture that tells how Jesus called his disciples. Contrary to what we think, they didn’t just drop everything overnight and follow Him. As relates to Peter and his partners, it was at least a 3-fold process. First, John the Baptist introduces them and they spend a day together, but no mention is made of a call.
Later, back home in Galilee, Jesus finds Peter and Andrew fishing and Matt 4:19 says, “And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Their fishing partners, James and John, do the same. But before long, they are back at the fishing business. They are trying to have it both ways. They are happy to have Jesus be Lord of their religious lives, but not their whole life. Like a lot of people, at this point they were half in, half out. The we come to Luke 5.
Vv. 1-2: “On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.” Rather than miracles, this crowd is pressing in for the Word – what every congregation should be requiring of their leaders. But where is Peter? He and his crew are washing the nets. Sermons are okay on Sabbath, but now he’s got to be ready to fish tonight. After all, first things first and he’s got to make a living. That’s the setting.
You might think Jesus would give up or rebuke this backsliding. Instead, He persistently, but lovingly, continues His quest for the hearts of these men. Paul said in Phil 1:21, “For me to live is Christ.” Peter eventually got there too. This passage squeezes into one day a sampling of the progression that moved Peter from fisherman to fisher of men. Note the things he gradually gives to the Lord in his quest to put first things first. From half in to all in.
I. His Boat
V. 1 takes us to the Lake of Gennesaret -- the Sea of Galilee. It is a beautiful harp-shaped body of water at the northern end of the Jordan River -- 8 miles wide by 13 miles long – semi-tropical climate. Famous for fish. Surrounded by hills and villages. Looking today much like it did then. Jesus is in His new hometown of Capernaum on the northern shore surrounded by people who want to hear a sermon, most having already been healed apparently. He is severely pressed for space, but He sees a providential solution – 2 boats. V. 3, “3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.” Sounds coincidental; it’s not. Jesus is about to get a two for one here – both a pulpit, and a way to finally capture Peter’s heart.
Jesus confiscates Peter’s boat and asks Peter to push off so He could preach without interference. Peter’s fine with that – wouldn’t need the boat until evening anyway. Like many of us. Happy to claim to be a follower of Jesus -- as long as it doesn’t cost too much. We’ll give our old junker as a tax write-off. Not worth much anyway. We’re happy to buy some snacks for the kids. We’ll give a little money as long as it’s clear we can meet our other needs. Of course, if anything is falling short, that goes first. Like the child who dropped “God’s nickel.” Some old clothes for the missionaries – they don’t mind second-hand things. A few cans for the food drive. Some loose change for the baby bottle campaign and a few dollars in the benevolent fund now and then. Hey, we’ll do our part as long as it doesn’t hurt. In truth our hearts are not in it; we’re just buying God off for a few dollars, some old clothes and odds and ends. Listen, God doesn’t ask us to give because He is desperate for the help. He gives us the privilege of being part of what He is doing.
Nothing wrong with any of the things listed above. But -- are we just giving a boat we don’t need at the moment? Is that the condition of our heart? God once told David to raise an altar on the threshing floor of a farmer named Araunah. Araunah tried to give David the threshing floor, the oxen for sacrifice – everything. But II Sam 24:24? “24 But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” He gave more than a boat he wasn’t using at the moment. He knew commitment costs! How much? C. S. Lewis says: “If our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.” Jesus deserves more than a boat we don’t need at the moment. Right now, we are getting excited about the possibility of a new building. But if God is really asking us to do something like that – a church of our size, then we are going to have to be ready to sacrifice. It’s going to take every bit that God asks of us.
II. His Time
V. 3, “Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.” Jesus says, “Peter, put out a little so I can get some room here.” And Peter complies. But, of course, he’s now stuck in the boat. He’d been cleaning nets, but now he has to sit and listen. He has to give some time. He issues no complaint. He was willing to give some time. It wasn’t really crucial time. He fished at night, so this cost him little. You can almost imagine Peter saying, “Hey, I got a great idea. I fish at night. But how about if I met you here a couple of days a week and let you use my boat to preach from like today.” Peter might have thought he could catch a little shuteye while Jesus was preaching! A nice little ministry, right? And it would hardly cost anything –he had a little time to spare..
So like us, isn’t it? Willing to give a little time and think it’s a big deal. I’ve known people who think they’re doing God a favor by showing up to church. Or we think if we give God Sunday morning, that’s plenty good enough. Let’s don’t overdo this religion thing. Regular devotions, Bible studies during the week, service projects, preparation to teach some kids, coming early for Praise team practice, sponsoring a youth group -- others can do that stuff. God’s going to have to understand, I gotta living to make.
I have a question. Did you know that God has called every believer into full-time service? Did you know that? I don’t mean professional. But full-time? Absolutely. Look at I Cor 7:17, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” If you belong to Christ, He’s making the assignments. It isn’t you saying, “Here, Lord, you can have this.” No, it’s Him saying, “I need you to do this.” As someone has said, “He is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.” And that applies to time as much as to anything else. Skip to I Cor 7:23, “You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition (work, career) each was called, there let him remain with God.” God instructs us in Eph 5:16 to be redeeming the time. And to make sure we get it, He repeats it in Col 4:5. To think that we own 95% of our time and God gets 5% is unchristian. It’s all His – even our recreation time which ought, like our work and ministry time, be redemptive in some way. (Jim and “In the Dirt”)
Jonathan Edwards said that time is related to eternity like a porch is related to a house: "This world was made for a place of preparation for another. Man’s mortal life was given him that he might be prepared for his fixed [eternal] state. And all that God has given us here, is given for this purpose. . . . . Civil, ecclesiastical, and family affairs, and all our personal concerns, are designed and ordered in subordination to a future world." So, how are you doing with your time? Is it His, or are you clutching it to yourself?
III. His Obedience
V. 4, “And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Hang on; this is really good. After Jesus finishes preaching, He turns and says, “Pete, let’s go fishing.” Now that was a silly thing to say, and Peter knows it. Fishing? In the daytime? On Galilee? Give me a break! V. 5, “And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” Peter’s no amateur. He makes his living fishing. He’s president of the company that includes Andrew, James and John. And here is Jesus telling the CEO how to fish. Peter is thinking, “Listen, Jesus, we have fished this area as professionals for decades. We know how to fish. You’re a theology expert. When we need info about God, we come to you. But we don’t need your help fishing. This will be a good lesson for you.” That’s what Peter is thinking. But all he says is, “Jesus, know this, we were out at the right time and the right place last night and got nothing. I’m just sayin’! But – at your word, we’ll do it.” He’s on record with his protest so he turns to his partners and says, “Well, guys, He is the Lord. Humor Him.” So they throw their nets over and, of course, every fish in the Sea of Galilee jumps in! The great haul practically sinks every boat they can bring to bear.
Now, I love this. First, it shows that obedience, even without faith, pays dividends. That’s a good principle to know. Did Peter expect to catch anything? Not on your life. He was just humoring Jesus. But obedience without any faith is its own reward. Jesus didn’t get a lesson; Peter did! He learns Jesus knows Peter’s business better than Peter does. Jesus isn’t just a Sunday morning theological expert; Jesus knows Peter’s business better than Peter does. And I’ll tell you what: Jesus also knows your business than you do? Do you know that? It’s absolutely true!
Beloved, this is why we obey, even if we disagree – like Peter. It’s because Jesus knows best. His commands are only for our good. But we like to teach God a lesson now and then, don’t we? When He says in II Cor 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers,” we move ahead anyway and marry that unbeliever because they are the finest person we’ve ever met? Inevitably we will find that Jesus knows our business better than we do. Are you going to partner with that unbeliever because you make a killer team? Then someday you will find that Jesus knows your business better than you do. Will you do everything you can to raise your children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord”? Or will you put other things ahead of time with your children and making sure they are getting the Word from you as well as at church? Then the day will come when you find out the Lord knows your business better than you do. You’ll wish you could go back and do some things differently. Don’t be trapped into thinking you can teach God a lesson. The lessons come from Him, not to Him. And we learn them by obeying, even when we don’t believe. Can you do that? Have faith in the dark?
Olivia Langdon was a dedicated Christian girl who at first refused the proposal of an attractive young unbeliever. But he persisted and she married him in 1870. He tried to adopt her Christianity, but soon gave up any pretense, though he did not discourage her. But, his own skepticism gradually eroded her faith and when their daughter Susy died in 1896, she could not be comforted. In desperation, Mark Twain begged, “Livy, if it comforts you to lean on your Christian faith, do so.” She replied, “I can’t; I haven’t any.” Beloved, rest assured God knows your business better than you; His commands are for our good, never for ill. Samuel told Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (I Sam 15:22). Obedience has its own reward.
IV. His Sin
Back to Peter. Suddenly he’s got all those fish. R. C. Sproul asks, “If you are Peter, what do you do in a case like that. You’re Jewish. You’re in the fishing business.” Sproul says, “If I’m Peter I say something like this, ‘Look, Jesus, do I have a deal for you. Here’s what I’m saying. Just once a month, one time a month, you come here and do this shtick, and you have 50% of the business. The rest of the month we can just hang.’ You would think that’s what an astute businessman would do, right?” But Peter’s reaction is extraordinary. Incredibly, he looks at all those fish, and then he looks at Jesus and v. 8 says, “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
What is that about? It’s about Peter just playing along until now. Jesus has been an entertaining interlude. He’s been humoring Him. Now the reaction is incredibly other – shear terror. Why? There’s been no confrontation – just a boatload of fish. But in that haul of fish Peter saw two things he hadn’t seen before. He saw the absolute holiness of Jesus – and he saw the absolute sinfulness of Peter. The scales fell from his eyes. How about us? Have we seen the depravity in us in contrast to the holiness of Him? That’s what drives repentance! Our generation makes Jesus as they want him to be. Just like Peter – humoring Jesus, playing Him, playing at religion. But with this amazing display, Peter suddenly understood – This isn’t someone you can play around with. He had followed before on his own terms. Just playing along. Now he got it, you can’t fool around with power like this.
As his unworthiness overwhelmed him, Peter begged Jesus to go. But that’s exactly what Jesus was looking for. He couldn’t use a Peter who was half in, half out. Jesus was going to give his own life so that Peter’s sins could be forgiven, and He required nothing less than Peter’s life in return. And so, when Peter recognizes who Jesus really is, addresses Him as Lord, now, not just Master – when he acknowledges not just his sin, but that he is a sinful man, He is ready for eternal life and a life of discipleship.
So I ask, have you come to Jesus on His terms? I’m not talking half-hearted attempts to buy him off; I’m talking complete surrender? Have you seen His awesome holiness and your own unworthiness by comparison? Then you are ready to become a true disciple. Paul said, “But if you will confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord (like Peter just did), and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Have you met him at the cross? Have you seen that He gave all for you and are you willing to give your sin to Him? Is He Lord? Have you been saved, like Peter? You say, “Are you saying that Peter was not a believer until now?” I don’t know for sure, Beloved. But I think this is when Peter became a true believer? I think he had just been going along previous to this. At best he was half-hearted in his faith, and half-hearted always raises doubts – is it real, or is it not? This is where Peter got it. When he confessed his sin and accepted Jesus as Lord.
Beloved, do you understand that to confess Jesus as Lord means He is now in charge. There is a new sheriff in town. Salvation is nothing less than that. Have you been there? Is He truly yours and you His? Matt Chandler in The Explicit Gospel says there are a lot of people swimming neck deep in Christian culture who have been inoculated to Jesus. “They have just enough of him not to want all of him.” They conform to a religion but are not transformed by a person. He says you can really tell this when he gives an annual “State of the Union” address to his congregation – The Village – in Dallas. He says “I tell them ‘Hey, quit coming here. If you're not serious, if you don't want to plug-in, if you don't want to do life here, if you don't want to belong, if you’re an ecclesiological buffet kind of guy, eat somewhere else.’ And then people who are doing all of those things will sit there in the crowd and say, ‘Yeah! Get ‘em. It's about time someone said this.’ I'm thinking, "I'm talking to you! You’re who I'm talking to." It makes me want to pull my hair out. They hear the words coming out of my mouth, but they're not listing.” The problem is they haven’t really seen Jesus. They’ll give Him a small religious piece of their life, but they want to keep the rest. You can’t do that, friends. It’s all or nothing. Peter learned that.
Middle of v. 10, “And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” Peter had said, “You must leave me, Jesus. I am unworthy.” Jesus answers, “That’s just what I needed to hear. Do not fear, Peter. I accept your confession, and I have great plans for you.” Is that good or what? And I love how Jesus says it. “You know about fishing? Well, then, let’s go fishing -- for men.” The word Jesus uses means “to catch alive.” He’s saying, “Peter, you’re good at dead fish, but now you’re going to catch live men. Not your plan; my plan. Not your lesson to me; my lesson to you. Not you as Lord; but me as Lord. Let’s go.” And they went. Finally Peter gave Himself. In the end, that’s all Jesus wanted. EVERYTHING! And Peter and his partners never turned back except for a couple of days after His crucifixion, after which He forgave and restored them. At last, they were all in. Are you all in?
Conc -- General William Booth founder of the Salvation Army was on his deathbed. A curious relative asked, “General what has been the secret of your wonderful ministry?” Booth replied in his usual gruff manner, “Well, I think if there’s been any secret at all, it’s just been this – Jesus has had every bit of me.” Isn’t that grand? See, Jesus is not the least bit interested in having 10% of your income or 5% of your time to teach kids or 2% of your property. Not at all. Jesus wants you! Whether you are a farmer, a banker, an accountant, a policeman, a businessman a decorator or a housewife, He’s called you where you are and He wants you – not your things – you. He must be Lord of all of life, not just religious life. If He’s got you and me, He’ll have all the rest. What Peter learned was He’s Lord of all, or He’s not Lord at all. Peter begins this chapter by saying, “I’ve got to get my nets clean because – first things first.” He ends up leaving everything because, after all, first things first. Let’s pray.