January 10, 2010

The Church that Fishes for Men (Luke 5:1-11)

by Rev. Jeremiah Cheung

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The Year 2010 is the church’s Mission Year, with the theme “Seize the Day”. We must rely on the Lord’s grace and intensify our missions and evangelistic work, so that we may become a church that fishes for men.

Luke 5:1-11 records two miracles. The first miracle is that of Peter working hard all night, but not catching anything. This was impossible, for Peter was a professional fisherman; he had much experience, equipment, and time, yet he didn’t catch anything the whole night. This had to be God’s work, God’s miracle. It was God who caused them to not catch anything. Sometimes, when we encounter difficulties, we think that God does not care about us; but the Lord may have allowed the difficulty in our life in order to help us, he may have allowed it so that we will draw near to Him. The second miracle is when Peter let down his net into deeper water, and the net caught so much fish that the two boats began to sink. This group of fishermen knew such a thing was not possible, this was another miracle.

After performing the miracle, Jesus told Peter, “From now on you will catch men.” Peter became a fisher of men. Through this passage, let us learn how to become a church that fishes for men:

I. The Church must have God’s Word

Luke 5:1 “Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God.” Jesus had the Word of God and the crowd longed to hear it. This generation needs the Word of God. The prophet Amos declared 2750 years ago, “Not a famine of food or thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” Men’s hearts need the Word of God. This is an unchangeable truth. Today, men continue to seek the Word of God. As long as the church has God’s word, then people will come to the church.

Today, there are many churches which have shortened their preaching time. We must understand that it is not the length of the message that matters. The longer a message without content is, the worse it is for the speaker, and more so for the listeners. But there is some problem if the singing is longer than the preaching. I am not against singing and worshipping with songs. Someday in heaven, we will forever sing praises to the Lord. Come that day, there will no longer be a need for preaching. All preachers will be jobless in heaven, while choir members will continue to serve the Lord in heaven. Why? Because we will be perfect there; but right now, we need to teach the Truth. While we are on earth, we need the word of Truth. Some churches only allot 20 minutes for preaching of God’s word, while giving 45 minutes to singing. They reason that people love to sing and don’t like to hear the preaching; that if you want to increase the church attendance, then, you must lessen the preaching time and increase the singing time. But the Bible says, “…the people (were) crowding around him and listening to the word of God.” For a church to become one that fishes for men, all leaders, deacons, small group leaders, co-workers must have the word of God. Because you are shepherds, you must use the word of God to shepherd your group.

II. The Church must submit to the Lordship of Christ

Luke 5:2-4 “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 shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Jesus saw two boats at the water’s edge and he got into the boat which belonged to Simon. He asked Peter to put it out from the shore, and taught the people from there. When he finished speaking, he told Peter to put the boat out into deeper water, and let down the nets for a catch. Have you noticed that a change of status happened here? Peter was the master initially, he was the owner of the boat, Jesus was the guest, but Jesus gave the orders. From the status of guest He became the master, Peter became the guest. This is exactly the secret for a church to become a fisher of men: submit to the lordship of Christ.

III. The Church must Grow Deep

Verse 4 “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Why did the boat have to be put out into deep water? Because there are few fish in shallow water, large fish cannot be found in shallow waters. There is only one way to catch a lot of fish, and that would be to go into deeper water. Peter said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” He was saying we are already very tired, we have worked hard all night, we have washed the nets already, why should we go into deep water again? Isn’t this the problem of the church? For a church to fish for men, the church should go into deeper water, but it would entail a lot of difficulty, inconveniences, sacrifices, and hard work. It would definitely not be easy. For a church to grow deep, not only the pastor and the full-time workers, but every deacon, every small group leader, every one serving the Lord must grow deep. We cannot stop pursuing growth. I have said countless of times, “If you stop learning today, you stop teaching tomorrow.” We must grow in every aspect. Today, aside from the four basic training classes, 101 to 104, we will be having classes 201 -204 (level 2). Class 201 is about the Basic Doctrines of Christianity (Holy Trinity, Christ, Salvation). Class 202 is Old Testament Survey, Class 203 is New Testament Survey, and Class 204 is Basic Leadership Training.

IV. The Church must have Team Spirit

Verse 6 “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 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.”

They caught so much fish that their nets began to break. Peter immediately called their partners to come and help, they immediately came and together they pulled the nets up onto the boat. And so, the two boats filled up with fish. This is called team work. The church must have the spirit of teamwork. Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress; working together is success” and Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”.

To become a church that fishes for men, we must have team spirit. The Chinese are often thought of as lacking team spirit. There is a saying that one Chinese can defeat a Japanese, but two Chinese will lose to two Japanese. This is because Chinese are not known to be cooperative, they do not have team spirit. They often fight against each other. As a result, two Chinese become defeated by two Japanese. This is true in some sense. We often are protective about our territories -this is my territory, do not enter it – as a result, others dare not help you and you also refuse to let others help you. When that happens, how can we succeed? Our God is three-in-one, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They work together as a team. In the aspect of our salvation, the three-in-one Godhead worked together to accomplish our salvation: Ephesians 1:4 “… for he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” God the Father does the choosing. Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. God the Son redeems us from our sins.” Ephesians 1:14 “ …Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.” The Holy Spirit guarantees. God is a three- in-one God, and always work as a team. The Church is Christ’s body, if it doesn’t work as a team, how can it be worthy to be called Christ’s body?

V. The Church must Recognize its own Limitations

V.8 “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Why did Peter kneel before Jesus, and beg Jesus to leave him? After the miracle happened, Peter knew from his experience as a professional fisherman, that this was an impossibility. He knew that they were not the ones who caught the fish, the fish were commanded to swim to the sides of their boats. Peter knew that it was not the work of men, but of God. He suddenly understood that the Jesus who stood before him was God himself. He immediately fell on his knees and asked the Lord to go away from him, because he was a sinful man. He felt he was not worthy to be near Jesus, Jesus is holy God -I am a sinful man, I am not worthy to stand beside you. But, Jesus said to him, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will catch men.”

This is an important reminder for us who serve the Lord – it is not whether you can, but whether you are willing. As long as you are willing, then the Lord can use you. If you think that you can be used by God because you feel you are talented, then, you cannot be used by God. This is contradictory…just like when you tell your friend that he is very humble, and he says he is not; the more he say he is not, the more you feel he is humble. On the contrary, if he says, yes, I am very humble, then, you feel he isn’t humble. The church must recognize its limitations, because in our inabilities, the Lord can use us. However, we must understand, when we recognize we are not able, it is only the first step. If you stop there, then you become useless and God will not be able to use you. We must move towards the second step, that is, to recognize that I can’t but God can. This had been Paul’s experience, he said I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. We can move from can’t to can, because the Lord gives us strength.

Hudson Taylor said, “There are 3 stages by which God works:
1. It can’t be possible.
2. Too difficult
3. Accomplished”.

When God gives us work to do, we feel we will not be able to do it. But when by faith we accept it, we proceed to the second step, that is, we find the work is too difficult. We encounter a lot of difficulty. But then, we find ourselves reaching the third stage, by the grace of God, we have accomplished the work.

May the Lord bless us, may CBCP become a church that fishes for men.

January 10, 2010