Matthew 4: 12- 23:
So going forward in this new year of 2017 what goals have you made for yourself? Have you decided to follow Jesus, with all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your mind? We start these ambitious goals each and every New Year, however, a lot of those goals vanish away.
For example, we start these New Year’s resolutions with much motivation and certainty, yet we quickly lose interest once the going gets tough. Some of the resolutions I have started in the past are the following;
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day……..only to see that go to 15 minutes per day, or 10 minutes every other day, or once a week when I get time.
- A goal of staying in regular contact with my parents. Which turns out to maybe I will just try to visit my parents once a month, or dwindles down to I will just call my parents when I can.
- Or I get ambitious and decide that I am going to read the Bible in one year; only to see that well maybe I will read the New Testament, or that doesn’t work so I say, I will read the Gospel of Mark or……. Maybe just opening the Bible.
Can you commit yourself to live a life for Christ today? Can we rededicate our lives to Jesus as one of our New Year’s resolutions?Do we have the self-discipline to follow him day after day? Let’s look to our gospel today and see what we can learn from Jesus.
In our Gospel today Jesus got word that John the Baptist had been arrested and then Jesus returned to Galilee. He moved from his hometown, Nazareth, to the lakeside village of Capernaum, nestled at the base of Zebulun and Naphtali hills. The Isaiah prophesied sermon came to life in Galilee. This is an amazing verse as it was prophesied that the Gentiles would receive the light of the Gospel.
It was Matthew’s habit to find in the Old Testament something which he could use as prophecy about events in Jesus’ life. He finds it in Isaiah which foretold of the light that Jesus was to bring. In Isaiah 9:2 is says, “The People were walking in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.”
In a time of great darkness, God promised to send a light who would shine on everyone. He is both “Wonderful Counselor”, and “Mighty God,” and the “Prince of Peace.” Jesus himself referred to himself as the Light of the World (John 8:12).
When Matthew quoted Isaiah this was quite helpful to the Jewish audience who were familiar with Scripture. In addition, it shows the unity of God’s purposes as he works with his people throughout all the ages.
In verse 17 we see that Jesus begins to preach; He picked up where John the Baptist left off, by saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” In other words, change your life for God’s kingdom is here. The Kingdom of heaven has the same meaning as the Kingdom of God, for the Jews out of their intense reverence and respect did not pronounce God’s name. So instead of using the Kingdom of God they used the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of heaven is near for it has arrived in our hearts.
When Jesus spoke he spoke with authority, not with perhaps, or maybes, or probablys, no…….. Jesus used the word “Repent” with authority. He was not guessing……… he knew…………..As it was the voice of God being transmitted through Jesus.
Repent means turn from your own ways, or turn from your old ways, and reverse your direction, and stop walking away from God and walk toward God. Jesus’ command was necessary because the reign of God was about to begin.
Eternity had invaded time. God had invaded the earth in Jesus Christ, and therefore, it was of paramount importance that a man should choose the right road to righteousness and the right direction toward God. Becoming a follower of Christ means turning away from self-centeredness and self-interest to turning our lives over to Christ’s direction and control.
I just want to say a few words about sin……. as modern culture has tried to replace sin with…. Oh it was a mistake, or an error, or it was a weakness on their part, however, it does not make sin any less moral. The danger of sin is that it feeds on itself.
Small moral compromises on Monday make you more likely to commit other bigger moral compromises on Tuesday. A person who lies to himself regularly finds after awhile….. he can no longer distinguish when he is lying to himself and when he isn’t. If you take away the concept of sin then you take away the thing that a person struggles against. Each day is filled with moral occasions and decisions!
The take away is this; To defeat sin you need help from the outside…. someone beyond ourselves. We have to go vertical in order to reduce and subside the sin in our lives. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land.” The most powerful way to fight sin…… in a sweet loving way is through prayer, humility, and seeking out God in everything that we do.
So; in our gospel story Jesus was walking by the lakeside……… as he walked he called Peter, Andrew, James and John. They were fishing throwing their nets out on the lake. In todays language Jesus was saying, “I will show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass fish. They didn’t ask any questions when Jesus called on them, but simply dropped their nets and followed Jesus.
As John tells the story, at least some of them were already disciples of John the Baptist (John 1:35). No doubt, that they had already listened to him, but in this moment…….. there came to them the challenge once and for all……… to give their life for him and rise up and take a stand.
Jesus really did call on ordinary men to follow him, as they were not highly educated, or of high influence, and or wealthy, or from an upper class background. They were simple people with no great future ahead of them. It was these ordinary men who Jesus chose.
During Socrates time an ordinary man named Aeschines approached Socrates and said, “I am a poor man,” said Aeschines. “I have nothing else, but I give you myself.” Socrates said, “Do you not see, that you are giving me the most precious gift of all?” The gift of yourself! What Jesus needs is ordinary people who give him themselves. He can anything with people like that.
So back to resolutions for the New Year, why do we make them? Are we the problem we are trying to solve? These resolutions that we make are entirely focused on ourselves arising out of our insecurity that we are not good enough. People in our lives and or our culture can reinforce these inadequacies that we may feel.
However, anyone who has made New Year’s resolutions knows that a lot of them are broken. In Christ, God reaches into our hearts to liberate us from self-focused anxiety and turns us outward……. so we may recognize how we are call and gifted to serve others and bring unbelievers to faith in Jesus Christ.
We see in our story today ordinary fishermen; living ordinary lives were called, and used their gifts, to serve others in order to advance God’s Kingdom. Let us see how the fisherman dedicated themselves to the cause of Christ. We have the following three points that the good fishermen must possess these qualities which will turn them into good fishers of men.
- Pursue patience. The good fisherman must learn to wait patiently until the fish will take the bait. The good fisher of men will need patience. We rarely see quick results in bringing someone to Jesus……..we must learn to wait and be patient, and let the Holy Spirit work in a unresponsive heart.
There is that old Greek saying, “My boat is so small, and the sea is so large.” One must be patient in order to face the flurry and the storms of the sea. The man or woman who tells the truth about Jesus, more often than not……… takes his reputation in his or her hands.
- Embrace Perseverance: He must learn…….. never to be discouraged, but always try again. The good teacher must not be discouraged, when nothing seems to happen, but be ready to always try again. Jesus tells us not to worry about unresponsive people. He said, “Shake the dust off your feet and move on.”
He must have an eye for the right moment. The wise fisherman knows when that there are times when it’s hopeless to fish. He knows when to cast his line and when not to cast out his line. We need to go where the fish are biting. There are times that men will welcome the truth and times they will resent the truth. The wise teacher knows the times to speak and the time to be silent.
- Pursue Humility: The wise teacher will present to men, not for himself, but for Jesus Christ. His aim is to fix men’s eyes on Jesus and not himself. He must fit the bait to the fish. One fish will rise to one bait and another to another bait. Paul said that he became all things to all men……….. if by chance he might win some.
Col. 4:5-6 says, “Be wise in the way you act toward unbelievers, make the most out of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
The lesson here is when being fishers of men and women we start where people are at as Jesus did. We need to start slow with people as and build a relationship. Look at how Jesus did it; When he was with the woman at the well, Jesus talked about living waters, when he was with the farmers he talked about sowing seed, and when he was with the fishermen, he talked about catching fish.
So going forward in this new year of 2017 what goals have you made for yourself? It is a time to move forward, yet at times;
It’s hard not to focus on past,
It’s hard not to focus of our failures,
It’s hard not to focus on our past sin,
Yet; The Good News Is……….
We are not our past,
We are not our failures,
We are not our shame,
We are not are sin,
As Jesus has died for us, and given us new life;
We have been forgiven,
We have been cleansed of our sins,
We have been accepted by God,
We have a new identity in Christ.
How can we rededicate ourselves to the cause of Christ and to the glory of God in this year 2017;
- Acquiring more patience for ourselves and others in order to serve others
- Acquiring more perseverance and strength to serve others
- Acquiring more humility in order to serve others
This year it is time to fix our gaze on Jesus and serve others as one of our New Year’s resolutions.