It Pays To Obey

“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,
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!’”
Luke 5:1-8 (NIV)

Our Lord was making the busy town of Capernaum His headquarters for the Galilean ministry. Influence by the Pharisees was minimal there and so Jesus could preach the Good News freely. As an international center Jesus could readily preach to various nationalities who could take the good news to their own people. A generous gift from a Roman centurion paid for a synagogue in Capernaum.

Fishing on the Lake of Gennesaret was normally done during the night and the fishermen would come to shore at dawn. The people living near the lake would come down early in the morning and buy a day’s worth of fish for their families. Hence a crowd of shoppers gathered around Jesus as He began to teach. Seeking a better place from which to teach, Jesus got into one of Peter’s boats, moved it out into shallow water, and sat down to speak to the people. In Jesus’ day, the rabbi stood to read the Torah and sat to teach.

When Jesus finished His message, He asked Peter to take the boat out into deeper water to cast the net for a catch of fish. Peter’s response is wonderful. He explained to Jesus that he had fished during the best time to fish which was night without success. Then he said, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” This is a wonderful act of obedience when he did not understand His Master’s instructions. Peter deserves high praise for trusting His Master under confusing instructions. He was suitably rewarded for his obedience.

When we get into a situation like Peter’s it is very easy to try and back away. However, we should heed David when he wrote in Psalm 23:3-4 (NIV)

“He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”

Hearing Jesus

“And the common people heard him gladly.”
Mark 12:37 (KJV)

As with most leaders, our Lord had a hearing among the diverse members of society. Those who paid most attention to Him were the “common” people. Such truth brings confidence, joy, comfort, and encouragement especially to those of us who are “common people”.

I have had the privilege over many years of dealing with people who wonder why a holy God would be “bothered” with them. Perhaps they had a criminal record, a failed marriage, wayward children, little to offer their Creator by their own estimation, or some other matter. These dear ones are missing the heart and soul of our Lord’s first Advent.

While our Saviour welcomes people of every race, economic situation and accomplishments it seems He is especially attractive to ordinary people. Why? Well for one thing He was born into poverty, grew up unnoticed be society generally, as an adult owned no property and always had to borrow a place to sleep. In fact, when He began His public ministry, He kept His Messianic identity secret. This action on our Lord’s part is especially noted several times in Mark’s Gospel and is called, “The Messianic Secret”.

So, if you are sensing you are far from the Saviour today, take heart because He said He came to call people just like you to Himself. I would urge doubters to read the Gospel of Luke where our beloved Saviour is especially shown with people on the trailing edge of society. Some of the people were the lowly shepherds at His birth scene, widows, children, the prodigal son, the repentant thief and so on.

There is so much evidence of our Saviour paying close attention to ordinary people that there can be no doubt He is very interested in you, my reader. I urge you to come to Him just as you are and where you are. He will welcome you, forgive you as you confess your sin, give you peace of heart and mind, and guide you every step of life’s journey until you arrive safe at your eternal home. Come to Him and come now.

Come, you sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity joined with pow’r:
He is able,
He is willing; doubt no more.

Come, you weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and broken by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all:
Not the righteous,
Sinners Jesus came to call.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requires
Is to feel your need of him;
This he gives you,
‘Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.

Lo! th’incarnate God, ascended,
Pleads the merit of his blood;
Venture on him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude:
None but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good.

– Joseph Hart

A Scholar Like No Other

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus,
a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus at night and said to Him,
‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher;
for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’”
John 3:1-2 (NASB)

Nicodemus was drawn to Jesus as one scholar is drawn to another scholar. He recognized that Jesus was in a special class and sought Him out. However, he recognized that as a member of the Sanhedrin, being seen with Jesus would be to risk criticism hence the cover of darkness.

Jesus’ rejection by the Sanhedrin was partly due to Him not being trained in their rabbinical seminary and partly because of some unusual aspects to His teaching. The Jewish leaders would continue arguing publicly with our Lord until one dramatic incident when He truly confounded them over the interpretation of a Messianic passage. (Matthew 22:41-46). From then on, they ceased public debate with this brilliant teacher.

However, Nicodemus found our Lord’s signs very persuasive concerning Jesus having God on His side. Or perhaps better put, the new Teacher was on God’s side. Nicodemus had to know more about this man.

This argument of our Lord’s miraculous works testifying to His origin was also used by the man born blind John 9:30-33 (NIV)

“The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable!
You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.
We know that God does not listen to sinners.
He listens to the godly person who does his will.
Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.
If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’”

This is why we need to have people read the Gospels to have them see the works that persuaded true seekers that Jesus was sent from God.

As we seek to help people come to faith in the Saviour, urge them to read the Gospels, give them a copy of the Bible if necessary and urge them to start reading the Gospel of John. It is an especially good book to persuade people to believe on the Saviour. Offer to explain things they do not understand. If you cannot answer a question from them, go to a church leader and put the question to them.

Pray to the Lord about who you should help today. Opportunities abound in your neighbourhood, among family members, everywhere. The problem is not that you don’t know someone to start with, its who to begin with first.

Remember you represent a scholar like no other.

Wise Words

“From this time many of his disciples
turned back and no longer followed him.
‘You do not want to leave too, do you? Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe and to know
that you are the Holy One of God.’”
John 6:66-69 (NIV)

Jesus had finished a sermon that offended most of His congregation. It is months before the cross and the crowds vanished never to return. Certainly, the Saviour was not happy about losing the people. Sadly, He turned to the Twelve and asked a painful question. He wanted to know if they wanted to leave also. This was one of Peter’s finest moments! We will look at his marvelous response in a moment.

During Jesus’ sermon the people spoke to Jesus.

“So, they asked him,
‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?
Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness;
as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
(John 6:30-31 NIV).

The people wanted a sign to examine first in order to then believe Him. So, it was for them a matter of sight before faith. Also, they wanted a sign greater than the miraculous meal of last night. They refer to the miracle of 40 years of miraculous food in the wilderness. They seem to say that Moses’ forty years of miraculous meals made the miraculous meal of feeding the 5,000 last night pale in comparison.

When we look at Peter’s statement, he reverses the terms and puts belief first and knowledge second. Peter is right. We must have faith when we come to the Lord. Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) tells us

“And without faith it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

We should never put God to the test as the crowd did in John 6. We must not only believe He exists but that He rewards those who trust in Him. Can you say to the Saviour, “I believe you Lord Jesus and I have come to know Your love and grace to me.”

The universe speaks eloquently of the existence of God. Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein are perhaps the greatest physicists of all time. As they studied the universe, they were firmly convinced a Creator put everything together. As the Psalmist put it, (Psalm 19:1 KJV)

“The heavens declare the glory of God…”

So, while we did not see the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, we only need to lift our eyes to the heavens to see the glory of God. A study of science produces faith and faith brings the knowledge of the grace and love of God.

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

– Carl Boberg

Restoring The Fallen

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’
Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!
You are a stumbling block to me;
you do not have in mind the concerns of God,
but merely human concerns.’”
Matthew 16:22-23 (NIV)

“About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.
As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed,
and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.
Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor,
talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure,
which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem…”
Luke 9:28-31 (NIV)

Peter was one of the greatest individuals in the early church. He made remarkable statements concerning his beloved Master. His sermon in Acts 2 preached on the Day of Pentecost was wonderfully blessed and thousands were converted as a result of one sermon by Peter.

But Peter’s great gift meant he could commit great blunders and he did blunder as recorded in Matthew 16:22-23. A few days later Peter was rebuked by the Master for telling Him the coming crucifixion must never happen, Jesus took Peter, James and John up a mountain for a remarkable scene. There Jesus was transfigured before them. They were joined by Moses and Elijah and then the three transfigured men spoke about Jesus coming crucifixion. Peter, James and John heard the conversation. It was a scene that greatly helped to restore Peter and help him come to terms with our Lord’s death and resurrection.

Any child of God may falter and sin terribly. David, who wrote such beautiful Psalms committed adultery and murder. We know that several well known preachers in the twentieth century fell into dreadful sin. So, no one is exempt from the possibility of gross sin.

But just as the Saviour restored Peter so He restores us when we fall. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) So any child of God who falls into sin will experience the Lord’s intervention just as Peter did.

When David fell, God sent Nathan to rebuke him (2 Samuel 12). Because David was a true child of God he repented and also wrote Psalm 51 a wonderful prayer to the Lord full of sorrow and grief. Our holy God calls on all of us to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 19:2).

If you have fallen or know a believer who has fallen be assured your loving heavenly Father will intervene to restore you to a place of useful service.

Weary of wandering from my God,
And now made willing to return
I hear and bow me to the rod
For thee, not without hope, I mourn:
I have an Advocate above
A Friend before the throne of love.

O Jesus, full of truth and grace
More full of grace than I of sin
Yet once again I seek Thy face:
Open Thine arms and take me in
And freely my backslidings heal
And love the faithless sinner still.

Thou know’st the way to bring me back
My fallen spirit to restore
O for Thy truth and mercy’s sake,
Forgive, and bid me sin no more:
The ruins of my soul repair
And make my heart a house of prayer.

Charles Wesley