2020 Vision: Honoring Christ (Luke 5:1-11)
When animal trainers go into a cage of lions, they carry whips and pistols. But invariably they also carry a stool. According to William H. Hinson, the stool is the most important tool.
The trainer holds the stool by the back and thrusts the legs toward the face of the wild animal. The animal tries to focus on all four legs at once. In the attempt to focus on all four, a kind of paralysis overwhelms the animal. It becomes tame, weak, and disabled because its attention is fragmented.
We, too, need to focus in our lives on what is important and stop allowing Satan to distract us from what is not important.
—John Maxwell, Developing the Leader within You (Nelson, 1993)
A student once asked Albert Einstein how many feet were in a mile. He was astonished when Einstein replied, “I don’t know.”
The student was sure the great professor was joking. Surely Einstein would know a simple fact that every schoolchild is required to memorize. When the student pressed for an explanation, the professor declared, “I make it a rule not to clutter my mind with simple information that I can find in a book in five minutes.”
—R. C. Sproul Jr., In the Presence of God (Word, 1999)
On the first Sunday of each month in 2020, I am using “20/20” as a metaphor for perfect vision, or focus. Who are we as a church? Who are we as a body of believers, a body of Christians? Well, let’s make sure we are focused on what is important. This is a definition of the Swartz Creek church of Christ which I wrote myself, based on what Scriptures teach: The Swartz Creek church of Christ exists, by the blood of Jesus, to share the gospel with the lost, strengthen the weak, encourage the members, and worship God, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today, I want to focus our vision on the part of that vision statement: The Swartz Creek church of Christ exists “by the blood of Christ.”
Who are we and what are we about? Not only does the year “2020” compel us to focus on what is important, but it also compels me, at least, to consider what the church is going to look like 20 years from now. In the year 2040, what will Swartz Creek church of Christ look like? That’s vision. Who are we going to be? What are we going to be about?
With the changes that come in life, it will help us move in the right direction if we stay focused on what is important. That’s why we start in 2020 with what is most important, why we focus our vision on what is most important and Who is most important: honoring Jesus Christ.
WHY SHOULD WE HONOR JESUS?
Because of Who He is: What would it take for you to fall in love with a stranger? Well, the first answer is that he or she would have to stop being a stranger. June 28, 1994 - I did not know Rachel. She did not know me. On June 28th, we were complete strangers. We met on June 29, 1994, when a group of my friends met together with Rachel and one of her friends for ice cream, after Wed night Bible study. I won’t go into the whole story now but we all met again for ice cream the next Wed night after Bible study, on July 6th. At that point, we were still simply acquaintances. I called her that Friday night, July 8th and asked her out. We could not go out the next Friday night but we had our first date on Friday, July 22nd. We went to see the Lion King and we ate BBQ at Brooksie’s Barn in Jackson, TN.
I’m thinking about those early days because Rachel and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage this year. 25 years. How do you go from being a stranger to dating, engagement, and marriage? You get to know who someone is.
Jesus does not command love from His followers. Not in those words; in other words, Jesus never says, “Love me!” The word “love” is used 13x in the Gospel of Matthew. In Mark’s gospel, 5x. In Luke’s gospel? 15x. In the Gospel of John? 57x! Jesus says, “Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Love God.” But He never says, “Love Me.”
Jesus earns our love. Jesus deserves our love. Before Jesus says, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37), Jesus was earning His disciples’ highest devotion and deepest commitment. Why was it that Jesus’ disciples, like Peter, James, Andrew, Paul, Stephen would be willing to die for the sake of Jesus? Not die to save Jesus’ life; we see all kinds of people give their lives to save the lives of others, or at least die trying to save the life of others. It is not unusual for someone to die trying to save someone else’s life. But those men died for the sake of Jesus’ teachings! That’s unusual. They died because they believed in Jesus’ teaching so much that they would defy the authorities who told them to shut their mouths. “I believed, therefore I spoke,” Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 4:13. Why?
Because of Who Jesus is (#1)… If I were to give you this sentence, how would you complete it: Jesus is_____? How many of you had the first thought: “Jesus is love”? Jesus is love.
The disciples heard Jesus teach: “love your enemies” (Luke 6:27) and then they saw Him practice it when he ate with the Pharisees, many of whom were antagonistic toward Jesus.
Jesus epitomized love in all that He said and did. When Jesus was eating with a Pharisee named Simon in Luke 7, an immoral woman came into the house and cried at Jesus’ feet, on Jesus’ feet, wiping His feet with her hair. Simon thought in his heart that if Jesus were a true prophet of God, He would not let this wretched woman touch Him! In that context, Jesus tells Simon a parable and at the end of the parable, Jesus tells Simon, “this woman’s sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much” (7:47). The disciples who heard Jesus would think to themselves, “Wow, if Jesus is willing to forgive this ungodly, immoral woman, He will surely forgive me of my sins!” Why do you love your spouse? Your friends? Because they forgive you. We do we love Jesus? Because Jesus is love and Jesus forgives. There is not anybody who has done anything that Jesus will not forgive. The only person Jesus cannot forgive is someone who refuses to come to Him for forgiveness.
Because of What He does: What does Jesus do? What would you say Jesus does? “Jesus _____”? Jesus serves, right? Why did the apostles lay down their lives for Jesus? Because Jesus laid down His life for them. “For this reason the Father loves Me,” Jesus said in John 10:17, “because I lay down My life.” The Father loves the Son because He sacrificed Himself. The disciples loved Jesus and gave up their lives for Jesus because He sacrificed Himself. You and I should love Jesus because He sacrificed Himself. That sacrifice was not just on the cross either. That sacrifice is the epitome of Jesus’ sacrifice but Jesus was constantly sacrificing His time and His energy to serve people around Him. We serve each other because Jesus laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16-17).
People love those who serve. I think about the time when Rachel and I first moved up here and all those Christians met at Wayne and Barb Geralds’ house to help us unpack and Steve and Sandy let us live in their empty house for two months. Dan Hyrckowian and Wayne Geralds and Don and Vicki Tucker served us by helping get our house ready to move in. Phil Turner and Mark Rutledge and Marvin Roberts and Gary Marchbanks who helped me in different ways to remodel my deck this past summer. People who serve are loved.
Jesus, at heart, was a servant. So many actions by Jesus flow from His heart of service. Jesus answers prayer because Jesus is love and love serves. “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do” (John 14:13). “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Seven times in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells His disciples that He will answer their prayers. Paul tells us that Jesus intercedes for us in our prayers in Romans 8:34. Jesus responds when we call on Him. Why should we honor Jesus? Because He loves us and He serves us in what is best for us, as He knows best.
HOW DO WE HONOR JESUS?
We love what Jesus loves. Jesus told the Jews in John 8:42, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.” If Jesus is our Savior, if He is our friend, if He is our husband, then we will love what Jesus loves. Jesus told His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you all love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus loves the brethren. Jesus loves the church. We need to love the church. We are members of the Swartz Creek church of Christ and we need to love the SC c of C as Jesus would.
We love Jesus’ words, His commandments. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). In the same context, John 14:21, Jesus says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love Him and disclose Myself to him.” Jesus told His disciples in John 14:31, “so that the world my know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.”
Now, let’s put the two of those together - loving the church and loving Jesus’ words, His commandments… What does that mean? If Jesus were here in SC, on earth, would Jesus worship His Father tonight at 5 PM? I think He would, don’t you? Don’t you think Jesus would be with His family, His brothers and sisters, when they assembled together for worship? I believe He would. Jesus loves His church. He would be here to sing with us. He would be here to pray with us. He would be here to encourage us and have fellowship with us. Would we be honest for just a moment? Honest with ourselves? Would Jesus skip worship for some frivolous excuse? We know Jesus worshiped in the synagogue on a regular basis. What would it take to keep Jesus out of worship? If we love Jesus and we love what He loves, we love His church, what does it take to keep us out of worship?
Don’t you think Jesus would be in Bible study with His family? The SC church family meets at 10 AM for Bible study on Sundays and 7 PM for Bible study on Wednesdays. Don’t you think Jesus would be here, if He were here on earth, to encourage in studying His word? I would love to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear Him tell me about His word and how I can apply it in my life better than I am doing. The next best thing might very well be you sitting in a Bible class and sharing how you have applied Jesus’ teachings in your life. If you have been reading the Bible on your own during the week and you have been living the teachings of Christ in your life during the week, I know that you have something to teach me when you come to Bible class. If you would just be here to share it. Jesus would be here to share His teachings if He were on earth. Jesus loved the word of His Father and He loved to share it. If we love Jesus, we will love His commandments. Jesus taught us that.
A woman bought a car loaded with a lot of high-tech options. The first time she drove the car in the rain, she turned a knob that she thought would start the windshield wipers. Instead, a message flashed across the dash: “Drive car in 360 degrees.” She had no idea what that meant, so when she got home, she read the driver’s manual. She learned that while trying to turn on the windshield wipers, she had inadvertently turned off the car’s internal compass, and the car had lost its sense of direction. To correct the problem, the car had to be driven in a full circle, pointed north, and then the compass had to be reset.
That’s what worship on Sundays and Bible study on Wed nights do for us. They help us reset our internal compass. We get refocused on what is really important in life and that helps us stay faithful to God. What is important in life is our faithfulness to Jesus Christ.
I want to conclude this study this morning by looking at one event from the life of Jesus that illustrates everything I have said about honoring Jesus, by loving Him: Luke 5:1-11. This is an event from early in the ministry of Jesus so the apostles are still learning some basic facts about Jesus but the response of Peter instructs us in how to honor Jesus for loving and serving us…
Verse 1 - Jesus was teaching. Why? Because Jesus knows that men and women need to hear God’s word. Jesus loves and love teaches what needs to be taught.
Verse 3 - What did I say about Jesus being at Bible study? If Jesus had an opportunity to be at a Bible study, He would be there.
Verse 4 - Jesus tells Peter to cast out from the shoreline and drop his fishing nets into the sea. Peter will tell Jesus in verse 5 that they had already fished all night and caught nothing. Don’t you think Jesus knew that already? Don’t you know that Jesus was testing Peter’s willingness to obey, so that Jesus could bless Peter, not just with fish, but with a deeper knowledge of Jesus so Peter could have a stronger love for Jesus? If you were not here this morning for Bible class, what did you miss in one of our five adult Bible classes that could have been just what you needed to hear from God’s word? You know, I know a lot about the Bible. But I sit in Josh July’s class or Trent Atkins’s class or any one of the other classes we have because I will likely learn something about Jesus from any one of these men. I don’t know enough to skip Bible class.
Verse 6 - Jesus serves… Peter obeyed Jesus, dropped his nets into the sea despite what his human judgment told him, and he and his brother and partners, James and John, caught so many fish, their nets began to break! Verse 7 says that they caught so many fish their little boats began to sink! When Jesus blesses, He blesses beyond our imagination, sometimes, beyond our ability to hold it all. All of us who have been Christians for a good length of time knows exactly how Peter feels at this point. We have been blessed beyond our imagination and if I could help our young people and teenagers understand that point — stay faithful to God, stay faithful to God, make decisions that will keep you faithful to God, surround yourself with people who will help you stay faithful to God, to obey God despite what your human judgment might tell you, and Jesus will bless you beyond what you could imagine.
Verse 8 - How did Peter respond? First, he responded with humility and confession. He fell to his knees, at the feet of Jesus in humility and confessed that he was a sinful person. If you want to honor Jesus Christ who loves you and wants to serve you, you’ve got to have the humility to fall at His feet and recognize that you are sinful and cannot get to heaven without Him.
Verse 10 - We see the nature of Jesus again… What is He about? He wants to save people. He wants more people in worship, in heaven, so Jesus tells Peter that He is going to make Peter a “fisher-of-men.” He wants Peter to go call more and more and more to come follow Jesus. If we love Jesus, that’s what we will do - call more and more and more people to come follow HIm.
Verse 11 - Finally, here’s how Peter honored Jesus after experiencing this tremendous blessing from Jesus’ hands: Peter, James and John all left their fishing business and began following Jesus. They began following Jesus. They listened to His words. They studied His words. That’s Bible study. They prayed with Jesus. They sang with Jesus. That’s worship. They loved what Jesus loved. And they served with Jesus. They healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, raised the dead, cast out demons. They served others. Why? Because they wanted to honor Jesus. When Jesus commanded, they obeyed.
When Jesus commanded them to go teach the gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the disciples obeyed. Even when they, themselves, were crucified for teaching the commandments of Christ, they obeyed and they died for it. Because they were focused on Jesus Christ.
Take home message: Let’s focus our vision on honoring Christ, worshipping Him, studying His word, loving what He loves, serving whom He serves because we love Him.