Have You Left Your Nets?

Two brothers, Simon and Andrew, hang out on shore cleaning their nets. It had been a long night. Even though they have landed the boat and have decided to get some rest, Simon throws the net out into the water one more time and catches nothing but water. They had fished all night and caught nothing – not great results for vocational fishermen. Simon and Andrew haven’t slept much and they’re probably not in a great mood. Their buddies and fishing partners, James and John, are nearby gathering their gear in a different boat.

Jesus walks the shore of the Sea of Galilee (also called the Lake of Gennesaret), a large freshwater lake. It is a beautiful lake, brimming with life. He sees some fishermen, guys messing with their nets and moping around. He approaches them and they look up.

Jesus climbs into Simon’s boat.

Simon and Andrew are probably confused and perhaps annoyed, at least at first. They probably knew who Jesus was. At the time He lived in Capernaum, which is a city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Now we don’t know where exactly the Scriptures find these fishermen on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, but if they fished the area often they probably lived nearby. Surely they had heard about this young man who preached a new message, a message of repentance and salvation. He was now in their boat.

As people congregate on shore, Jesus takes a seat and begins to teach from Simon’s boat (Luke 5:3). After teaching for a while, Simon and Andrew presumably sitting next to Jesus in the boat, Jesus tells them to put the boat out into the deep and let out their nets again. By now they were not annoyed – they were astonished. They call him “Master.” They hang on His every word. They are a little skeptical of dropping their nets, but when the nets sink into the water, they are so filled with fish that they can barely haul them in. When they pull in the fish, it almost sinks their boat. Their minds blown at the wisdom and power of Jesus, He speaks to Simon and Andrew:

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

Shortly thereafter Jesus makes the same invitation to James and John. These four ruddy and sun-tanned men had their world turned upside down by Jesus in a good way. When He makes the invitation to follow Him, here is their response:

“Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:20)

Simon, Andrew, James, and John leave their nets, still wet and fish wriggling in them. They follow Jesus. James and John left their dad sitting in the boat with their gear.

These men left their jobs and their families to follow Jesus. Instantly. Surely they had questions, but they knew after meeting Jesus that nothing in the world could compare to walking behind Him on the shore. In mere seconds, their hearts reoriented to Christ and their compass needle settled on his path. Drop net and go.

So here is my question for you: have you dropped your nets? Have you released your hold on security to follow Jesus wherever He may lead you?

Your net might be a career. It might be an idol or a habitual sin that you cling to. It might be your own identity – what you want to be. It could be your family. Maybe your net is comfort.

You cannot drag your net behind you as you follow Jesus. It will slow you down and you will find that He becomes a dot on the horizon as you sweat and pull and the nets drag on weeds and thorns. Whatever holds us back from a deeper relationship with Jesus is a net. And it must be dropped.

Dropping a net is an action. It is not the absence of a net altogether – it is taking the net in your hand, still wet, and dropping it so you can follow Jesus. Dropping your net is repentance, which means “a change of mind” in the Greek. One moment a mind focused on one thing, the next a mind focused on Christ.

I’ll end with this. It is possible that these fishermen ended up with their nets again. It is possible that these men still did some fishing here and there when they had to. But it was with new lenses and redeemed nets. They would hold on to their nets lightly, and Jesus firmly.

Have you dropped your nets?

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The Remission of Sins

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. ~Matthew 26:28 KJV

When we put our faith in Jesus, we do not merely make a choice to be better. We do not simply sober up, act right, or clean up our language. These things should happen as symptoms, but they are not the action we aim for. If we think we can save ourselves, we are delusional. And thus if we choose to go to battle with our sinfulness without Jesus we are like David vs. Goliath without God’s help. If God was not with David, he would have been stomped into the ground by Goliath. His borrowed armor would have been crushed like a soda can and Goliath would have roared in victory.

Ephesians 2:8 says our salvation is a gift. The recipient of a gift is the passive party – the party being given something. The giver is the active one. And our gift, this gift of salvation from God, is a gift of death (Romans 6:3). We were buried with Him so we might walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:4). Death to life.


Progressive Sanctification

While our former nature is gone and the new is here, we are not yet perfect. We have died to sin nature – that is, being ruled by sin – but sin still remains. This is a long journey. We are a work in progress and the Artist is still hard at work with His chisel, piling up shavings as we become something beautiful – like Jesus.

Here is how it works:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ~2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV

We move from one degree of glory to another. It is progressive. If you think of a line graph, the line is pointing up and to the right over time. Upon salvation, our standing with the Father is perfected (Ephesians 2:16), but we remain imperfect and sin-prone people. Saved but still being sanctified.

Notice the engine of sanctification – beholding the glory of the Lord. We see Him rightly and our faces glow as we stare into His light. When we behold Christ through prayer, Scripture, song, church community, nature, and family – sanctification happens. And our sanctification, like our salvation is also a gift: “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”


Remission of Sins

The King James version of the Bible says that Jesus’ blood was shed for the “remission of sins.” The English Standard Version uses “forgiveness of sins.” Both sound pretty good to me. The Greek word used for forgiveness/remission here, aphesin, means to pardon, release, and/or send away. The idea I get here is a prisoner released and told to leave the prison. You are free to go.

Romans 6:12-14 states:

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. ~Romans 6:12-14 ESV

“Let not.” “Do not.” “Present yourselves.” These are active verbs. Jesus opens the door to our cell and offers His hand. Will we get up and leave our prison of sinfulness? Will we take His hand and present our bodies as instruments for righteousness?

The saving work and the sanctifying work are God’s. Let’s not get confused here. We are not the agents of change. But we do have a role. Jesus’ atoning work on the cross put our sins into remission and bought us right standing with God, and that’s finished work. Irrevocable work. And now we live not under the law but under grace.

May we take up arms and fight our sins with the armor of God. May we walk out of our prison emboldened by our pardon, ready to wage war against the sin remaining in us. Christian, you are no longer under the law. Your sins have been sent away. Walk out of that prison cell into the freedom purchased for you on calvary.

Take His hand.

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The Herod In Us

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13 ESV)

We are never the bad guy. When you watch The Lion King, you never associate with Scar. He’s the worst, that scumbag lion who wants the kingdom for himself. He’ll step on anyone to do it, even while smiling.

We are Mufasa. Or Simba. We wear the white hat and ride the white horse and we’re on the right side of the fight. We are William Wallace. The horns sound as we enter the scene of life and hope everyone realizes how great we are. We are trying to do the right thing. Did you see that? Why can’t anyone see I’m doing the right thing here?

You see, we all vie for our personal kingdoms. Whether we admit it or not is another matter.

Herod had a kingdom. So when Jesus came on the scene, his stomach turned. Back in Biblical times you were king until you died or until someone stronger came and overthrew you. Herod heard the word on the street that a new king had arrived. So he decided mass infanticide was a good idea. Just kill all the young male babies and that’ll cast a broad enough net to kill this new king baby I keep hearing about.

You are in The Garden. You and your perfect spouse. You walk around in harmony and God is a few acres away doing something cool and you walk upon that tree He mentioned. He told you not to eat of it because you’ll die. But then you hear another voice, a voice telling you that not only will you not die if you eat it but you’ll really live. Like life in HD on top of the mountain live.

You take a bite.

That is what we do. We know what is right, we just don’t want to do it. Because submission to God means dropping our kingdom in the trash as we enter His kingdom. And that’s hard, but it shouldn’t be.

The really odd thing about this dance we do is that there is one real kingdom, and that is God’s kingdom. We, like grass, wither and die when we take the last breath we were given by God on the world He made. Yet He keeps on living. He always has and always will. He makes it rain and He knit you in your mother’s womb. It’s like a toddler telling his parents that he’s in control. Or worse.

When I read the story of Herod, I am appalled. Not only at the baby-killing but at the selfishness of the reason. He wanted babies to die because he wanted to live.

I’m going to have to distance from the baby-killing part of Herod. I’ll keep that line in the sand. But his disgusting kingdom-building feels awfully familiar. And someone bent on building their own kingdom will, if history is any indication, do horrific things to put another brick in their castle.

Let’s not sit in this mess too long. If you’re being real, you can associate with the kingdom building grossness of Herod. I can. That is the essence of sin. It started that way in The Garden and it’s that way here in 2016. Until Jesus returns we’ll fight this nature of ours (Jeremiah 17:9). But we can choose how we respond.

We can get on the building committee for one project only – His or ours.

I don’t mean that to say you can just will yourself to start caring more about God’s kingdom. Our wills are pretty weak. But we can make the choice to submit. We can actually read the Bible and care about what it says. We can pray and ask for help. We can be readers of the Word and doers of the Word. Here’s how.

Our building committee is a joke. It’s just us and we start nailing a 2×4 to a cinder block with a rubber mallet and it just goes bad. God’s building committee is eternal all star. When we submit to the lordship of Jesus, the Spirit moves within us to shape us and mold us. We get into the flow of how things were designed. And it all goes better. We flourish, the world is made better, and we get something done of significance. That sounds a lot better to me.

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