Joining the Team

  • Joining the Team
  • Luke 5:1-11
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • August 12, 2018
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8-12-18 sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

This morning we are going to start our “Game Ready” preparations by looking at what it means to join God’s team.  There is a great account of Jesus selecting the first members of his team. We find the story in Luke 5:1-11.

 

Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd.

When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.”

Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.”

It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch. Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee’s sons, coworkers with Simon.

Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.

 

Can you just imagine how elated Peter, James, and John were because of this monstrous catch of fish? This was the mother lode!

 

Now I don’t know about you, but in my estimation, supernaturally filling some fishing nets is a fairly odd means of recruiting a few disciples. But Jesus is the coach of this team that He is building and what might seem like unorthodox methods actually have some amazing purpose behind them. I believe this “odd miracle” sets up a critical aspect of Jesus’ teaching: the idea of small fish vs. big fish.

 

From the moment He arrived on the scene, all the way up until today, Jesus has been asking all sorts of people—not only career fishermen, but businesspeople, stay-at-home parents, bus drivers, presidents, actors, singers, writers, hairstylists, pro football players, professional chefs, retail managers, pilots, lawyers, teachers and preachers, and all the rest—this one question:

 

Are you going to throw your one and only life into pursuing small fish, or will you risk tossing your nets out there in anticipation of catching the human-sized ones? Are you going to dive headlong into the big picture, or will you settle for the lesser one?

 

Once you begin to analyze Jesus’ game plan for the team He is putting together there are a few big picture observations that we can begin to make. Here’s the first one:

 

Observation 1: The Priority Is People

Jesus desperately wanted these career fishermen, as well as each one of us, to understand that this life is all about people, the priority is always people.

 

It’s the big-fish opportunity that awaits us all; you can catch fish, or become fishers of men and women. You can be a successful businessperson, or get all over the business of redeeming lives. You can be the top student, or focus your attention on studying people. You can shine as a superstar salesman, or care more about letting your light shine in the lives of people.

 

Jesus was clear about which was the better path. To paraphrase Matthew 5:16, He said, “Let your light shine before others in such a way that they may see your good works and then glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

 

“Make sure your light shines in such a way, that people can come to know my Father because of how you treat them. Because of how you respond to them. Because of how you embrace them. Because of how you prioritize them!”

 

You don’t have to be any more talented, any richer, any slimmer, any smarter, any more or less of anything to partner with God. All you have to be is willing to be used by Him in everyday ways.

 

When we start letting our lights shine in a way that lets the people around us know they matter, then kingdom stuff starts exploding in our world!

 

Why is Jesus so convinced we should live this way? Not only because this is the way the kingdom gets built, but also because this is the way our souls get satisfied.

 

When we start living with God’s people, perspective life will never be the same again. We won’t get as excited about netting a few paltry perch as we once did. We won’t throw our energy toward amassing a few more dollars. Why? Because these things will no longer scratch the soul-level itch we feel.

 

Jesus knew that if you and I would build a lifestyle around accepting people, getting to know people, caring for people, serving people, listening to people, embracing people, befriending people, exposing people to spiritual things, prioritizing people, we would never crave our old ways again.

 

 

 

Observation 2: The Focus Is on Potential

Great coaches are able to look beyond their players current condition and see the abilities that lie within them that the players might not even be aware of themselves.

 

It didn’t matter to Jesus that his soon-to-be disciples first response to His commands was a little south of obedient. Remember when Jesus asked them to put the nets over the boat to catch some fish?

 

“But we’ve been fishing all night! And we’ve caught nothing!”

 

I think their insinuation was, “Who do you think you are? We’re the experts here! We were the ones slugging it out all night at sea. And now you want us to listen to you about catching fish?!”

 

By anyone’s standards, these guys weren’t contending for any Disciple of the Year awards just yet. Jesus saw what these guys could be like.

 

To look past the self-centeredness and see the potential for servanthood.  To look past the rebelliousness and see the potential for righteousness.  To look past the quick temper and see the potential for kingdom-building.  Aren’t you glad Christ did this with you? I know I’m glad He did it in me.

 

Everybody has something that needs some shaping, refinement, a healthy dose of God’s perspective before they come to Christ, right? The key is to let God do His work in people’s lives and hearts instead of suiting up to become lifestyle referees for everyone we meet.

 

I hope we all approach people with the same eye for potential that we are so grateful God had for us, remembering that He saw something so valuable in us that He was willing to take us in, right in the middle of our sinfulness.

 

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. Do you remember the story of a tax collector named Levi or Matthew? It’s found in Luke 5:27-32:

 

27-28 After this he went out and saw a man named Levi at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” And he did—walked away from everything and went with him.

29-30 Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. “What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and ‘sinners’?”

31-32 Jesus heard about it and spoke up, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.”

 

One day Jesus saw a tax collector sitting at his tax booth—someone obviously outside the family of faith—and told the guy, “Follow me.” Matthew’s comrades probably thought he’d lost his mind.

 

Why would a successful person ditch his career and traipse after a homeless rabbi? But Matthew soon discovered what Jesus knew, choosing God’s vision over lesser visions leads to wealth that the world only wishes it could offer.

 

What did following Jesus mean to Matthew? For starters, walking away from his business, his identity, his comfortable routine, not to mention his financial security.

 

It meant that Matthew would be prizing—and prioritizing—the people he once swindled. He’d be looking for the potential good in them, rather than what he could exploit. Tax-collectors weren’t the most respected lot in those days. Much would be shifting for Matthew now that Christ was in his life.

 

In those early days as a disciple, Matthew probably wasn’t altogether sure what he’d gotten himself into. “I’m definitely signing up for the life Jesus is offering, now I just wish I could figure out what that means!” Can any of you relate?

 

I’ve made a couple of observations about Jesus’ game plan, but now I want to offer us a word of encouragement in regard to this whole fishing for people idea: start small!

 

Start small, but start! Like Matthew, maybe you’re on board with the “people-priority” and “potential” concepts, you’re just a little perplexed about what’s supposed to happen in your life today, right here and right now. What is God’s game plan?

 

Here was Matthew, a new member of the team, a newly converted disciple of Jesus’ who had a deep desire to expose his friends and family members to the acceptance and love, the purpose and hope, that he’d found in Jesus.

 

He hadn’t had time to take Evangelism 101. But all of his old buddies were standing there in their tax-booths—where he used to work. Their lives would be so blessed by knowing Christ, but he had no idea how to get that introduction made, he saw them there and something tugged at his heart.

 

Just then, he decided what to do. Matthew decided to simply live his new life before his friends. What was the plan?

 

Keep in mind that Matthew was a brand-new Christ-follower. He didn’t know any worship songs to sing. He didn’t have the prayer thing down. But there was one thing Matthew was good at, he was good at throwing parties!

 

Some of you are breathing a sigh of relief. An approach to evangelism that involves partying?

 

It’s true, Matthew hatched a plan to throw a party. But not just any party. A party where he could stick his old tax-collecting buddies in a room with his new friends—the Christian ones—and just see if some of the good stuff might rub off on the ones who had yet to taste grace.

 

“What if, instead of just hanging together, what if a few of my new friends actually connect in my living room and stretch out a hand to my old buddies?” Matthew thought. “What if a couple of interesting conversations get started, maybe about what happened to their crazy buddy Matthew? What if some seeds are planted in the minds and hearts of my friends? What if a few of those guys actually come to faith as a result of this one, simple party?! That would be amazing!”

 

As I read this fascinating story in Luke 5, here is what occurs to me, Matthew could have been consumed by his own transformation that he left everyone else in his dust. He could have absolutely ditched his old friends and instead clung fiercely to his new ones.

 

But Matthew chose differently, didn’t he? He chose to prioritize people outside the family of God, people who need an ounce of acceptance, a taste of grace.

 

Matthew also chose to see the potential in his tax-collecting friends, the same way Jesus had miraculously spotted potential in him. I mean, really, who would have given Matthew half a chance of ever coming to faith in Christ?

 

You might sum it up this way: Matthew had a right view of his role in the lives of his friends. Matthew didn’t have his act all together. He didn’t have it all figured out. But one thing he did have, the hope of heaven. That reality single-handedly compelled him to take action.

 

Matthew knew that God had saved him for a purpose, a purpose that included more than his own salvation. A purpose that included being salt and light in his world, by making people his priority and their potential his focus; because people were the only thing he’d be taking with him to heaven.

 

Same holds true for us.