Just Walk Across the Room 4) The Greatest Life

4) The Great Life

Text: Luke 5:1-11, 27-32

 

Could you imagine what it must have been like for Simon Peter, or Levi? Just picture Peter and his partners, James and John for a moment. They had been out fishing all night and they hadn’t caught a thing. They were discouraged and tired. And while they were cleaning their nets Jesus approaches Peter and asks if he can use his boat to teach from. Peter obliges. But then Jesus asks Peter to throw out the nets for a catch of fish. Can you imagine what Peter must have been thinking? Firstly, what does Jesus know about fishing. Secondly, we’ve only just finished cleaning our nets. And finally, I just don’t feel like it, we’ve been up all night and we didn’t catch anything. But again Peter obliges, and they catch so many fish that not only does Peter’s boat begin to sink, so too does the other boat. And we are tempted to focus on the miracle, and say ‘Isn’t it amazing!’ But the point of the story is verse 10, where Jesus says to Peter, James and John, ‘10 …from now on you will catch men. (Lk 5:10c)’ And they leave everything behind and follow Jesus. And what about Matthew, who is called Levi in this story? Luke tells us that he’s a tax collector, someone who was regraded as a thief and a traitor by his fellow countrymen. But then Jesus turns up and tells him to follow him, and Matthew does. But then Matthew throws a big party and invites all his friends to met Jesus. The Pharisees are disgusted, ‘how could Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But Jesus on the other hand loves it, he says, ‘32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Lk 5:32)’ This morning I want to unpack these two stories and look at how just walking across the room is the recipe for living the greatest life imaginable. This morning I want to convince you that there is nothing more exciting, nothing more worth investing your life in, than evangelism.

 

1) Fisher’s of Men

So firstly, let’s take a look at how being fisher’s of men is a great life. I always thought that a huge catch of fish was a bit of weird miracle. My dad’s a keen fisherman, I’m sure he would appreciate it. Just imagine how excited Peter, James and John would’ve been. This was probably the best day’s fishing in their life. They would’ve been over the moon, high-fiving each other. With a catch like this they could make a killing, they could repair the boats, buy their wives new outfits, throw a party for their kids.

a) Dollars versus Destinies

But Jesus wants them to see something more. Instead of netting a few dollars he wants them to imagine landing a few destinies. Instead of being fishermen, he invites them to become fisher’s of men. Jesus asks them to give up everything for the sake of people’s souls. If catching fish is exciting, just imagine what it’s like to catch people! And that idea is crucial to understanding Jesus’ teaching. Jesus wants us to understand that there are little fish and there are big fish. The heart of Jesus’ message is that we can live for chasing little things, or we can give our lives chasing down the big thing. Jesus challenges us all, whether we’re fishermen, or businessmen, or housewives, or teachers, or cleaners, or whatever: are you going to give your life to pursuing small fish, to making a few dollars, or will you invest your life in people and in the process change destinies? And the amazing thing is that Peter, James and John, leave everything and they followed Jesus. They gave up being fishermen and gave their lives to being fisher’s of men. The truth is you can have a good life making money, but if you want to have a great life you need to be living for God’s purposes, your life needs to be about people’s destinies.

b) The People Priority

The truth is that living for God’s purposes means living for people. We need to prioritize people.

i) God’s Priority

We need to see them as God sees them, because God loves people, God prioritizes people. Jesus says, ‘16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… (Jn 3:16a)’ God loved people so much that he entered into our world in the person of Jesus Christ. In Matthew’s version of the parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus says, that just as a shepherd will search for his one lost sheep, ‘14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. (Mt 18:14)’ God came into our world in the person of Jesus in order to find lost people. And Peter, the same guy who gave up everything to become a fisher of men, writes, ‘9 …[the Lord] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9b)’ Think about how far God was willing to go to prove that there is nothing more valuable than people, he allowed his own Son to suffer and die in order to rescue lost people.

ii) Jesus’ Priority

And we see that in Jesus’ ministry as well. Jesus chose to go to the cross, not just because he was obedient to His Heavenly Father, but because he put the needs of people before his own. On the cross Jesus demonstrated once and for all how much he was willing to give in order to save sinners. On a human level we can’t even relate to Christ’s selfless compassion and mercy. Where was his concern for his own well-being? Where were his protests about his painful circumstances? Where was his seething anger towards those who did this to him? Instead, Jesus prays, ‘34 …Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Lk 23:34a)’ Jesus knew his Father’s heart for people so well, that even in the last moments of his life he could not let go of his preoccupation with people. Even as his heart beat its last, it still beat for people. As he hung there on the cross, I wonder if what flashed through his mind were the faces of the people whose lives would be forever changed by his death.

iii) Our Priority

I want to ask you this morning: Are people your greatest priority? Are you able to look past what you see in people’s lives and instead focus on the fact that every person you meet is valuable to God, and just as worthy of being redeemed as you? Do you get God’s heart for people? Do you understand Jesus mission, not to reach out to the righteous, but to sinners? The Good News is that the door to God’s kingdom is open to everyone. That’s the message that we have, that’s the message we get to carry to people who are standing on the other side of the room. Just imagine what would happen in our churches if every real estate agent, carpenter, mechanic, student, homemaker, or retired person among us said, ‘I’m in the people business. I might get my pay-check from my boss, but my mission is from Christ. And I will invest my life in people, whoever they are, whether they are believers or not, whether they are black or white, rich or poor, young or old. I will always be open to the Spirit’s prompting, asking him what he wants me to say and do!’ Just imagine what we could achieve if we used whatever God has given us in order to achieve his mission for his glory.

So how would this work itself out in your life?

1. Firstly, it will make a difference in your life. You matter to God. You mattered to God so much that he sent Jesus to save you from your sins. You mattered so much to Jesus that he died on the cross so that you could be forgiven and set free. The truth is that you are radically loved by God. Do you believe that God prioritizes you? Do you believe that all heaven rejoiced when you turned to Jesus in faith? Do you believe they threw a party for you in heaven?

2. Secondly, it will make a difference in the lives of your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said, ‘35 …all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (Jn 13:34)’ Just as Jesus loved us so we are called to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Just as God prioritizes us so we prioritize others. That means we will put the needs of our fellow-believers above our own. That means caring for one another, and supporting one another, and encouraging one another, and all the other ‘one another’s. Are you prioritizing your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you investing in God’s people, visiting the sick and the elderly, helping the needy, teaching those younger in the faith, praying for them and encouraging them?

3. Thirdly, it will make a difference in the lives of people far from God. Like Jesus left the 99 in order to search for the one lost sheep, do we prioritize reaching out to lost people? Do we remove any obstacle to reaching people with the gospel? Do we lay down our lives for the sake of changing someone’s eternal destiny? Maybe you’ve been fishing for paltry perch your entire life, well beginning today you can switch gears, you can help God land the biggest fish of all, a person’s soul. Once you land a few big fish the pursuit of little fish looses its lustre. I must admit now that I’m in full-time ministry I don’t think I could ever go back to the chook farm. I know it took me a while to work out that you’re more important than chickens! The point is: what will you give your life to – the little things, or the thing that matters the most? Will you give your life to making a few dollars, or changing people’s eternal destinies? It doesn’t take much, just a shift in priorities – from my needs and wants to those of others, from my agenda to the Spirit’s prompting, from my circle of comfort to just walking across the room. There’s nothing greater or more rewarding than being a fisher of men.

 

2) Matthew Parties

This morning I want to just look at two practical ways that we can prioritize people, these are the two tools in your tackle box that help you fish for men. The first is throwing a Matthew Party. Remember Matthew, or Levi, from our Bible passage this morning. Jesus comes along and tells Matthew to follow him and Matthew does. But the story doesn’t end there. Rather Luke tells us, ‘29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. (Lk 5:29)’ I can just imagine Matthew thinking, ‘How can I connect my friends with Jesus? What if I threw a party and I bring my mates from my old life and people from my new life and put them together in the same room? And what if the people from my new life don’t just stay in their comfortable circles, but instead walk across the room and reach out to my old friends?’ And Jesus likes Matthew’s idea so much that he’s there, he comes to the party. And I can imagine Matthew standing by the punch bowl praying, ‘God, please make something happen here tonight. Do something radical in the hearts of my mates, just like you did in my heart.’ And we don’t know if God did do something amazing at that party. We do know that a bunch of legalistic killjoys turn up and complain. But Jesus jumps to Matthew’s defence. ‘God isn’t annoyed or put off by people who are outside his family, rather he is drawn to such people, because they need his help the most. God is like a doctor who loves to bring healing.’ Jesus loves Matthew parties, Jesus came to hang out with sinners, because they were the people he wanted to save.

The truth is you can throw a Matthew party. It’s not a program, it’s just a casual way to help people who are outside the family of God to get inside the family of God. All you need to do is invite some of your non-Christian family and friends and some Christian family or friends to come over for something. It can be whatever you like, a barbeque, a pool party, a fishing trip, we used to invite people over to Bert’s for a game of pool. There’s just a few things to remember.

a) Invite non-Christians

Firstly, make sure you invite some of your non-Christians friends, otherwise it’s not a Matthew party.

b) Invite Christians

Secondly, make sure you invite some of your Christian friends.

c) Make sure they’re walk across the room people

Thirdly, these Christian friends need to be ‘walk across the room’ type people, people who are willing to leave their circle of comfort, people who would introduce themselves to someone new. People who would say the hardest words in the world, ‘Hi, my name is….’ People who will madly pray, ‘I have no idea how this is going to turn out God, I don’t even know if they’ll talk to me, but I’m going to give it a shot, and see what happens!’ You want to invite people who are relationally intelligent, open-hearted and radically inclusive, people who understand how much God values people. You don’t want overzealous types, who might alienate your friends, or make them feel judged or think they’re superior.

d) Trust God

Fourthly, you need to trust that God will do something mystical and miraculous in your middle of your Matthew party. Matthew parties don’t have to be formal, expensive, elaborate or perfectly orchestrated, they just have to happen. I want to encourage you to have a Matthew party, to open up your home, and your life in order to connect with people far from God. I challenge you to go home, find some space in your schedule and write down ‘Matthew Party!’ There you go, your pastor has just commanded you to throw a party.

 

3) Praying for People

The second tool in your tackle box is praying for people. The truth is that people who are far form God will only become close to God through the internal work of the Holy Spirit softening their hearts to Jesus Christ. In Colossians 4 Paul gives away the secret to effective evangelism.

a) Be devoted to prayer

Firstly, if you ever hope to lead people to Christ you have to be a person devoted to prayer. Paul says, ‘2 Devote yourselves to prayer… (Col 4:2-5)’ So what does it mean to be devoted to prayer? Firstly, it means you pray, and pray a lot. It means you pray when you’re alone, and when you’re with a lot of people, or just in Small Groups. You pray on the way in and the way out, in your closet and in your car and at your desk. It means you pray in the morning and at night, at mealtimes and between mealtimes. It means you pray when you’re feeling burdened, worried, sick or broken-hearted, and when you’re feeling great and everything is firing on all cylinders. It means praying when you feel up and when you’re feeling down, when you’re healthy and you’re sick, when you feel like it and when you don’t. In short, pray! And do so with devotion – pray fervently, expectantly, and unself-consciously. Be devoted to prayer, because nothing will change people’s hearts apart from the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. When you work it’s you doing the work, but when you pray, it’s God doing the work. So what exactly should you pray for.

b) Pray for Open Doors

Well firstly, Paul tells us to pray for open doors. He says, ‘3 …pray for us that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. (Col 4:3)’ The truth is you can’t force people to receive the gospel, you can’t cram Christ through a closed door. We need to be praying that God opens people’s hearts up to accept the gospel. Jesus said, ‘44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him… (Jn 6:44a)’ We need to pray that God intervenes in people’s lives, that God opens doors up in people’s hearts.

c) Pray for Clarity

Secondly, we need to pray for clarity. Paul writes, ‘4 Pray that I may proclaim [the gospel] clearly, as I should. (Col 4:4)’ If God opens a door for you to share the gospel with someone, and their heart seems open, then more than anything else ask God to help you explain the gospel clearly. Paul isn’t asking God to make him clever or likable, just clear. This is probably the prayer I pray the most. I have a lot of opportunities to speak into people’s lives and I often find myself asking God for the right words to say, to help people understand the gospel.

d) Pray for Wisdom

Thirdly, Paul says we need to pray for wisdom. Verse 5, ‘5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. (Col 4:5)’ Paul has been around long enough to see evangelism done badly, and he begs people to be wise in how they act towards unbelievers. Paul would agree that to be weird, or long-winded, or fuzzy, or to use code, or have a sense of superiority would be really unwise. Instead we are to be wise. We are to be emotionally and relationally intelligent. We are to be sensitive. We need to listen. We need to take great care when telling our story and when we tell God’s story. We need to make the most of every opportunity, and to do that we need to ask God for wisdom. And according to the Apostle James if we need wisdom all we have to do is ask and God will give it (Jam 1:5).

e) Pray for Grace

Finally, we need to pray for grace. Paul writes, ‘6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col 4:6)’ God’s word to us was filled with grace, and so our words to others should also be gracious. We don’t speak with a little bit of grace, we speak words filled with grace. We don’t sometimes speak with grace, we always speak with grace. And to be honest with you, that’s not easy, which is why we need to pray. What we need is a supernatural infusion of grace to pour out into the lives of other people. But this grace isn’t a wishy-washy sentimentality, it’s seasoned with salt. It’s confronting, but gentle. It’s convicting people of their sins with kindness. It’s speaking the truth, but with love.

If we are going to fish for men, and throw Matthew parties we need to devote ourselves to prayer asking the Spirit to go before us and open doors. And we need to step through those doors with clarity, wisdom and grace.

 

This morning I want you to capture a new vision for your life. Don’t live your life for small fish, don’t pursue the things that this world pursues, dollars and comfort and security. Instead live your life to catch big fish, to be fisher’s of men. Give your life to doing God’s will, to pursuing God’s mission, to change people’s eternal destinies. Make people your highest priority. Throw a Matthew party. And pray without ceasing that God will open doors for the gospel that people’s lives might be transformed.

It all starts with just walking across the room, developing friendships with people far from God and telling them your story of faith, maybe drawing a simple picture, and pointing them to Jesus Christ. But that’s not where it ends, because one day you will find yourself in heaven, and when you’re there you’ll see a Samaritan woman who met Jesus at a well, you’ll met Zacchaeus, and Paul, and a guy named Peter who will probably be wearing a ‘Fish Big, or Go Home’ T-shirt. And my prayer is that you will meet people whom you had a hand in changing. People who might say, ‘Remember that day you walked across the room? That’s was the day things started changing for me!’ Believe me there’s no greater life than the life lived serving God’s mission, of changing people’s eternal destines. Amen!

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