The main job of the United States Secret Service is to protect the President and other key figures in our government. Or is it? When the Secret Service was established on July 5th 1865, its main purpose was to minimize the counterfeiting of the US currency. At the time it was estimated that one-third to one-half the US currency was counterfeit. Current estimates believe that less than 1% of American currency is counterfeit largely due to the effectiveness of the Secret Service. At first glance, a counterfeit bill looks like the real thing, but after careful examination it is easy to spot a counterfeit. One may believe that the best way to discover a counterfeit bill is to study different version of counterfeit bills. Actually the best way is not to study counterfeits is to study the real thing. If you examine and know the real thing, it is very easy to spot a counterfeit. Like the US currency in 1865, our country is full of counterfeits. But it is not in our currency, but in our churches. Our churches are full of counterfeit believers. America is full of people who profess the name of Jesus, but do not look anything like the disciples in the New Testament. So this morning, we are not going to examine the counterfeit disciples, but rather we are going to carefully examine the true disciples of the Lord Jesus. We are going to look 4 truths that should be true of all Christian disciples. First truth…
I. A True Disciple Receives the Word of Jesus
Luke 5:1, “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with people 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 the shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water, and let down your 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.”
Jesus is continuing his mission in preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God. Verse 44, “And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.” We see from this passage that Jesus’ teaching was not contained only in the synagogue, but he used every opportunity to proclaim his message. Jesus has started to gain a following and people were crowding around him to hear the word of God. What a beautiful scene!! People are hungering and thirsting after righteousness, they wanted to hear the word of God. Jesus’ disciples then and now should want to hear the Word. A mark of a true disciple is their desire to hear the word of God.
This is one the reasons why I do not understand people who profess the name of Jesus, but do not make the church a priority. The church is where we hear God’s Word every week. We should do whatever we can to make that a priority. Our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world walk miles under the threat of persecution and death to hear God’s Word. True disciples love to hear God’s word. But true disciples not only want to hear it, they want to receive it; meaning that want to follow it. Look at how this story unfolds.
The crowd is so big that Jesus has to find a better place to teach. So he sees some fishermen that have finished their night of fishing and are washing up their nets. He walks over and gets into Simon’s boat and asks Simon specifically to put out a little from the shore. Jesus taught the crowd from Simon’s boat. This is the second time in Luke’s gospel that Simon is introduced. Simon was an important figure in the early church so it is important for Luke to explain his call.
Remember Luke’s purpose to give an orderly account to Theophilus of what happened in and through the church so the calling of the first disciples is crucial and specifically the calling of the leader of the church. This scene focuses on Peter becoming a true disciple of Jesus. Jesus chose Peter’s boat. The calling was individual and specific for Peter as it is in the calling of all true disciples. We do not become disciples of Christ through our parents or even our church. We all must individually receive the Word of God. And that is what we see Peter doing.
Verse, 4, “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Jesus, the carpenter, begins to tell Peter, the fishermen, how and where to fish. This would not be an easy command to listen to. It does not make a lot of sense. Peter a fishermen, whose father was probably a fishermen and his father before him was a probably fisherman knows a lot more fishing than a carpenter from Nazareth. Peter even implies this, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”
Ellen and I lived in an apartment in Washington D.C. when we first got married. One night I was walking out of the apartment and a US Marshall, Sergeant Butch Darley, stopped me and asked me if he could use our apartment for a stake out. Apparently our neighbors had stolen several cars and were suspects in a bank robbery. Ellen had a friend over that she had to drive home. So while she drove her friend home, I began my very first and last stake out with Sergeant Butch Darley. Sergeant Darley walked into our apartment and put bullet proof vest on the table. This is the real deal. Well, I have seen a few crime movies and TV shows so I started to help. “You may want to put some guys out back because their apartment has a back door that opens to the court yard.” He looked at me and said, “We know.” Code for I do not need help from a 23 year old school teacher. I am a professional. I do this for a living. It was a join operation with the US Marshalls, DC Police and the FBI. They had a helicopter parked 30 seconds away on speed dial. This might have been how Peter felt. He was a professional fisherman. He knew what he was doing. The funniest thing about that story is when Ellen got back from dropping off her friend. She came sat down and said, “You may want to put some guys out back because their apartment has a back door that opens back there.” Butch rolled his eyes and I looked at Ellen and said, “We know. We know.”
But Peter did not respond as a professional fisherman. He responded with humility. He said, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” This is a response of a true disciple. He does not understand all the details. He may not make sense to him. But it was said by Jesus, His Master, so that was good enough for Peter. Peter is leading the others in the boat. He says, “I will let down the nets.” A true disciple follows Jesus in the midst of his friends. He cares more about the word of Jesus than anything.
A True Disciple receives the Word of God. Are you receiving the Word of Jesus? Are you following your Master’s Word? It is enough to hear it, true disciples receive it. Our second truth…
II. A True Disciple Recognizes the Divinity of Jesus
Verse 6, “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.” This is incredible. Only a few hours earlier zero fish were caught. They labored all night and caught nothing and now they have so many fish that the nets are beginning to break and the boats are beginning to sink. This was a miracle. We do not know if this was a miracle of knowledge meaning that Jesus knew where the fish were going to be or a miracle of power in that fish were drawn to the nets. But what we do know was this was a miracle. This miracle made an incredible impression on the fishermen. They knew that this was something special. Verse 9, “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 partner.”
Peter, James and John recognized that Jesus was the Lord. Peter responded by falling at Jesus’ knees (an act of worship) and called him Lord. Before one can become a true disciple of Jesus one must first recognize his Divinity. This was God in the flesh. Peter had heard Jesus’ teaching and seen his miracles. Jesus came face to face with the One True and Living God. The most important person for a true disciple is Jesus Christ. All true disciples love and worship Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the one true living God.
Our culture does not like Jesus and his disciples because of his exclusive claims on being God. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” All other religions according to Jesus are wrong. There is only one way to God the Father and that is through His Son, Jesus Christ. If you do not believe in the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ then you cannot be a true disciple. Third mark of a true disciple…
III. A True Disciple Recognizes their Sin before Jesus
The closer one gets to Jesus Christ, the more one recognizes their own sin. Verse 8, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus knees and said, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!” When sinners enter into the holy presence of the Lord, our own sin is magnified. We see this same reaction from Isaiah in the 6th chapter of his prophecy:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train[a] of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”[b] 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
In the holy presence of God, a sinner cannot escape their own sinfulness. A true disciple does not attend to hide their sin or justify their sin. A true disciple is undone and grieved with their own sinfulness. Peter and Isaiah both recognize that they cannot stand in the presence of the God. They realize that because of their sin that they should be cast out of the presence of the Lord.
Every true disciple must recognize their own sin and the consequences of that sin. Our sin against God condemns us to Hell. We rightly deserve to be cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. If we don’t understand what our sinfulness deserves, we will never fully follow Jesus. People do not want to hear about their sin. They want to hear positive message of hope. But the hope that we have in the gospel is real hope. The Bible exposes that we are far more sinful than we could ever imagine, but we are far more loved than we could ever dare dream. Our sin is great, but God’s grace is greater.
Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
threaten the soul with infinite loss;
grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
Grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!
We should never be afraid to admit the wickedness in our own heart. We don’t want to believe it’s there, but it’s there. And when we do not acknowledge our sin, we hinder our ability to love Jesus. Jesus tells this parable:
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly… He, who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:41-43;47 ESV)
We love Jesus move when we realize how much we have been forgiven. So when we admit the depths of our sin, we able to more clearly see how much we have been forgiven. And then we can sing:
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
And how are we forgiven?
We are forgiven through the faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our sin brought judgment for the wages of sin is death. We all deserve death because of our sin. And God being fair and just must punish our sin. So God sent Jesus to be punished for us. He died in our place. And after his death, God raised him from the dead conquering the grave for anyone who would put their trust in Him. Jesus took our death that we deserved and he accredited his righteousness by faith to us. We are forgiven by shed blood of Jesus; all of our sin; past present and future. All of our shameful, wicked, perverse sins were forgiven by faith in the Son of God.
A true disciple does recognize his sin before Jesus. And then, lastly…
IV. A True Disciple Repents and Follows Jesus
Not everyone is forgiven. Forgiveness comes only to those who repent of their sin and follow Jesus. To repent means to turn. Literally it means to change your mind. To repent means to turn away from your old way of life and to turn to living for the Lord Jesus. Verse 9, “9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 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.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” A change happened in Peter and his friends. The Lord Jesus extends his hand of grace. Listen to those words, “Do not be afraid.” Remember Peter rightly understood his sinfulness before Jesus and he rightly responded with fear. There should be fear when sinful man enters into the presence of a Holy God. But with four words Jesus extends grace, “Do not be afraid.” Those who turn to Jesus do not have to be afraid because Jesus will accept them with open arms and forgive them.
But Jesus not only accepts and forgives us, he changes us. He says, “From now on you will fish for people.” A change occurred. They were now followers of Jesus. For, “they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” True disciples leave everything and follow Jesus. Jesus demands our full allegiance. Everything is reoriented under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Peter is still a fisherman, but he is now a fisher of men. Leaving everything does not always mean that you have to change jobs or neighborhoods or friends, but it does mean that the purpose of your job, neighborhood and friends have changed. They are all given to Jesus and used for his purposes. True disciples repent and follow Jesus.
This is so important especially for the traditional church. Traditional churches across America are largely missing one thing: young people. Younger people typically are not drawn to traditional churches because they want something real, authentic, and true. They do not want just to gather on Sunday morning, but they want to give their lives for the cause of Christ. They want to be called to do something great for the Lord Jesus Christ. They are hungering and thirsting to find something real. They are sick of counterfeits and are desperate to find real faith, real community, and real followers of Jesus Christ. If we want to reach the next generation, we must be a church full of true disciples. This whole story is a picture of the harvest that God wants to bring to his churches. The fisherman Peter experienced a catch so large that the nets started to break and the boats began to sink. And right after that amazing catch, Jesus looks at Peter and says now you will be a fisher of men. You thought catching fish in abundance was amazing, just wait and see what it is like catching men. Think about Pentecost; 3,000 Souls crossing over from death to life. God is not done with Park Baptist Church.
This church is full of true disciples. I have learned so much of what it means to be a true disciple by watching your faithfulness to God. I have seen your faithfulness in: your willingness to live simply so you can give generously; your commitment to this church for longer than I have been alive; in your commitment to your marriages and families; in your commitment to faithfully pray for children that have walked away from Jesus; in your consistent care for one another in the face of death and sickness. This true church is full of true disciples.
I do think the younger generation sees clearly the faithfulness of our forefathers. But one of the things that the younger generation does see is the importance of being on mission with God. They enter into our church buildings and they see what we have built, but they do not see how we are going outside these walls to reach a lost world. They feel traditional churches are more social clubs than missionary outposts and they want something more. Following Jesus means participating in his mission: to be fishers of men.
In 1954, Thomas Wedel told this parable, “On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a little life-saving station. The building was primitive, and there was just one boat, but the members of the life-saving station were committed and kept a constant watch over the sea. When a ship went down, they unselfishly went out day or night to save the lost. Because so many lives were saved by that station, it became famous. Consequently, many people wanted to be associated with the station to give their time, talent, and money to support its important work. New boats were bought, new crews were recruited, a formal training session was offered. As the membership in the life-saving station grew, some of the members became unhappy that the building was so primitive and that the equipment was so outdated. They wanted a better place to welcome the survivors pulled from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged and newly decorated building.
Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They met regularly and when they did, it was apparent how they loved one another. They greeted each other, hugged each other, and shared with one another the events that had been going on in their lives. But fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions; so they hired lifeboat crews to do this for them
Eventually, most of the members wanted to stop the club's life-saving activities, for they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal fellowship of the members. Other members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all those various kinds of people who would be shipwrecked, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. And do you know what? That is what they did.
As the years passed, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a place to meet regularly for fellowship, for committee meetings, and for special training sessions about their mission, but few went out to the drowning people. The drowning people were no longer welcomed in that new life-saving station. So another life-saving station was founded further down the coast. History continued to repeat itself. And if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of adequate meeting places with ample parking and plush carpeting. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.
There is a beauty in having a multi-generational church. Older and younger members help us balance one another to ensure we always live as true disciples. Beloved, lets continue to leave everything and follow Jesus.