I want to begin our study this morning by asking you a question. The question is this: “Have you ever considered the fact that as a born-again Christian you are ‘in’ the ministry?”
The fact is that the moment you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you entered the ministry. God has a plan for each of us and that plan will be as varied as each individual person. But one thing is the same; we all have a ministry for the Lord.
This surprises some believers. Many think that the pastor is solely responsible for the ministry or others such as Sunday School teachers are involved in ministry.
Yet the testimony of the Scriptures is that we all have ministry to be doing. For example Paul instructed the Ephesian believers that:
“And He (God) gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers (gave people with gifts to whom? The Church)
for the equipping of the saints for the work of service (read that ministry), to the building up of the body of Christ (there’s the purpose);
until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (there’s the duration and result; Eph 4:11-13).
Our text today points out this truth – that we are all called to serve the Lord by serving with His people.
Now, let’s re-cap where we’ve been thus far. Matthew began his gospel account by presenting Jesus as the Christ, God’s Promised Redeemer. He did this genealogically and tied it to the fulfillment of OT prophecy.
The wise men from Persia understood the sign of the star in the east and came to Jerusalem to join in the celebration of the birth of the King.
But there was no celebration. The Jews were not aware of the birth of their Promised Messiah.
When the time came for Jesus to begin His ministry among the Jews, God sent John the Baptist to make the announcement.
In order for the people to understand this there needed to be a spiritual awakening however. So John’s message was that God’s Kingdom was at hand and it was time to repent of and confess their sin in preparation for receiving the Messiah.
The picture we saw last week was that as soon as you come to the realization that your life falls short of what God requires, and take steps to change that situation, the enemy will come against you. The temptations of Jesus illustrated this for us. But Jesus’ endurance of His trials also shows us that we can endure our trials.
So the stage is set for the next step in God’s program – His calling of people to their ministry.
Notice the words “now when He heard.” You wouldn’t know it from just reading those words but by comparing all 4 gospel accounts you find that about 1 year has passed between verse 11 and verse 12.
The synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke don’t mention any of the events of that year but John fills in this period very well.
During this year John the Baptist’s ministry and Jesus’ ministry overlap. John continued to preach repentance and that the Kingdom of God was at hand.
At the same time Jesus was turning water into wine at the wedding feast and throwing the crooks out of the Temple (John 2). In John 3 we read about Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. In John 4 we read about Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well.
This year of overlapping ministry concluded with John the Baptist’s arrest by King Herod. What’s interesting to me is the reason John was arrested. It seems that everything was alright as long as John told the common people that they were sinners and needed to confess and repent. The minute John decided to tell someone with power that they were a sinner and needed to repent things changed in a hurry.
The Bible tells us that Herod had taken his brother’s wife by force to be his wife. John told Herod to confess his sin and return his brother’s wife. This got him arrested and eventually beheaded.
So all of this took place between verses 11 and 12. When Jesus heard what happened to John he left Judea for Galilee. Part of the reason for Jesus withdrawing to Galilee was that the time had not come for Him to have direct confrontation with the religious leaders of Israel.
How do we know things were getting tense? Again John’s gospel fills in the gaps.
“Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.”
And in John 7:1 we get even more information about what was going on:
“After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him.”
Arriving in Galilee Jesus first went to His hometown – Nazareth – and was promptly “run out-of-town.” Well, actually He walked out of town when an angry mob wanted to throw Him off a cliff. Luke tells us that after reading from the book of Isaiah and claiming that He was the fulfillment of the passage:
“And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.
But passing through their midst, He went His way. And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath;” (Luke 4:28-31).
So, Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, which was located on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. The province of Galilee encompassed the lands originally given to three sons of Jacob – Zebulun, Naphtali, and Asher.
This was another prophecy fulfilled – v 14-17.
Notice that the province of Galilee was called “Galilee of the Gentiles” in this passage. What had happened over the years was this once Jewish land had become intermingled through marriage to the degree that it was seen as a Gentile land instead of a Jewish land. This was the direct result of the Jews not obeying God’s commands to drive the Canaanites from the land.
To the Jews of Jesus’ day Galilee was seen much like Samaria – land of the undesirables. But Jesus shared the same message with them that He had shared in Judea. Repent!
Jesus’ message of repentance went further than John’s message of repentance. John told the people to repent because the Messiah was coming. Jesus told the people to repent because He was the Messiah.
And that seems to be the meaning of Isaiah’s prophecy that “to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned. That light was Jesus folks.
Now, Jesus was not preaching an “easy believeism.” When Jesus preached repentance He was saying you need a total make-over. He was telling people that their lives were wrong at the very core and there needed to be a life change.
I remember reading an interesting illustration of this truth by Chuck Swindoll in his book “Improving Your Serve.” He wrote:
Let’s pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. I’m the owner and I’m interested in expanding overseas. To pull this off, I make plans to travel abroad and stay there until a new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family and move to Europe for 6 to 8 months and I leave you in charge of the busy state-side organization.
I tell you that I will write you regularly and give you directions and instructions on what to do. I leave you and fly to Europe. Months pass by; a flow of letters are mailed from Europe and received by you at the national headquarters. I spell out all my expectations to you in each letter.
Finally I return to the United States after 8 long months. I drive down to the office and am immediately stunned at what I see. Grass and weeds have grown so high they obscure the windows. Some of the windows along the front of the building are broken out. I walk into the lobby and there is the receptionist doing her nails, chewing gum and listening to a radio station blasting out disco (that would be enough to put you over the edge for sure).
A quick glance around shows the wastebaskets are overflowing onto the floor, the carpet hasn’t been vacuumed for weeks, and not one person seems to be concerned that the owner has returned.
I ask the receptionist where you are and she says “I’m not sure I’ve seen him today but if he’s in he’s probably in the lounge area.”
More than a little disturbed by this point I begin to walk down the hall toward the lounge area. Sure enough there you area watching the afternoon soaps on TV. I ask you to step in my office which has been turned into a storage area.
My first question to you is “what in the world is going on man?” You respond with a question – “what do you mean?”
I continue, “Look at this place. Didn’t you get my letters?” “Oh, yes, absolutely we did get your letters. And they were great! We’ve had a letter study every Friday since you left to read and discuss what you wrote. Some of us have even taken the additional step of memorizing some of the sentences and paragraphs you wrote. A couple of people have even memorized an entire letter.”
“But what did you do about what I instructed you?” “Do? We didn’t do anything.”
The message that Jesus was preaching superseded John’s message and went much further than John’s did. Remember John told the people that he was baptizing upon their confession of sin but that Jesus would come baptizing with the Holy Spirit.
Now the meaning of this was clear I believe to all those who were truly repentant and broken over their sin. The OT prophets Joel said Ezekiel both spoke of that day when God would “pour out His Spirit on all mankind” and would “give them a new heart and put His Spirit within them.”
This was the essence of Jesus’ message. God had broken into time and space. He had manifested Himself in His Son and He was calling all of mankind to salvation through Christ.
Now, I’ve heard the gospel called the “Good News” many times as I’m sure you have as well. But the truth of the matter is that the gospel is only good news to those who repent, to those who confess their sin and claim Jesus as their own.
To everyone who rejects the message of salvation in Christ alone, the gospel is bad news. I think that’s why we see real hostility toward the message of salvation in Christ today, both outside and inside the church.
One of the most amazing things to me about God is that He chooses to use people to accomplish His will in the creation.
How does He do that? Verses 18-19
I see Jesus tying together the message of salvation and service. He is saying “Listen, salvation is manifested by service, by ministry.”
Some people believe it’s enough to just say the words “I believe Jesus has saved me. But there is so much more folks. James says that salvation results in good works; that your faith is demonstrated by your ministry for the Lord.
Confessing Jesus as Lord means in the least:
- You are ready and willing to serve Him in whatever capacity He leads.
- You are ready and willing to be His follower, His disciple.
- You are willing to tell others of the great love you have found in Christ.
We see what this looks like initially in verse 20.
What are the implications of verse 20? The verse says that as soon as Jesus asked them to join Him they “immediately” obeyed. That’s one goal for us right there. To immediately obey when Jesus asks us to do something.
The verse also says they left their nets behind. Folks, when Jesus calls us we will need to leave some things behind. Why is this so hard for us? Because the old nature doesn’t let go of things easily.
But here’s the basis for obedience and letting go of stuff – following Him. The verse says that Peter and Andrew left their “things” and obeyed immediately the call of Jesus so that they could follow Him.
That’s a key folks. One of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen is the person who thinks they can “add” Jesus to their life and continue to drag all the other junk of the old life behind them. You’ve got to let go of the old to receive the new life!
We see the same thing repeated in verses 21-22.
The result in both instances is that Jesus will make us “fishers of men.”
I once read about a man who prayed every morning, “Lord if You want me to witness to someone today please give me a sign to show me who it is.” One day he found himself on a bus when a big, burly man got on and sat down right next to him. The bus was nearly empty but this guy sat right next to the Christian.
The Christian couldn’t wait to get off the bus and anxiously looked out the window for his approaching stop. But before our praying friend could get off the bus the big man started crying out, “I need to be saved. I’m a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Won’t someone tell me how to be saved?”
He turned and looked at the Christian and said, “Can you tell me how to be saved?” The Christian immediately bowed his head and prayed “Lord, is this a sign?”
Have you ever considered that the primary ministry of the church is evangelism? The primary purpose of the church is to worship and glorify God but the primary ministry of the church is to take that attitude of devotion to God and model it before the world by sharing the news of salvation in Christ.
The most well-known verse in all of Scripture is perhaps John 3:16 – “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
This is a message of hope, salvation, and evangelism. Luke and Mark both tell us in their gospels that Jesus came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” That’s the essence of evangelism.
We’re not trying to convince lost people to try a little harder to find God. Our message is to stop trying to do things your way and understand that sin separates you from God. Rescuing people from their sin and certain eternal separation is God’s concern.
This is our great commission as well isn’t it? “Go and make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to observe (read that be obedient to) all that I commanded you.”
Sharing our faith, telling other people about the love and forgiveness we have experienced in Jesus is the purest and truest ministry the church will ever do.
Our calling to be fishers of men is a natural result of a thankful heart.
In 1 Peter 2:9 we read these words concerning Christians:
“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession; that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.”
Jesus said that He would give us a passion for the lost. As we obey Jesus’ calling on our life we will increasingly see people as God sees them – broken and hurting.
Our response to this is that we will begin to order our lives in such a way that God’s priorities become our priorities. Are you doing that? Are you making life choices in light of what it means for your ministry to God?
This will require some hard choices folks. You will certainly be living counter-culture. But then Christians march to a different beat don’t we? We get in serious trouble when we try to live by the world’s beat. Sadly, I see the latter everyday.
The need to remember our priorities is illustrated in the following story.
“The Life-Saving Station”
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks were frequent, a crude little life-saving station was built. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted crewmen kept a constant watch over the sea. With no thought for themselves, they went out day and night, tirelessly searching for any who might need help.
Many lives were saved by their devoted efforts. After a while the station became famous. Some who were saved as well as others in the surrounding area wanted to become part of the work. They gave time and money for its support. New boats were bought, additional crews were trained and the station grew.
Some of the members became unhappy that the building was so crude. They felt a larger, nicer place would be more appropriate as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with hospital beds and put better furniture in the bigger building.
Soon the station became a popular gathering place for its members to discuss the life-saving work and visit with other members. They continued to remodel and enlarge the station so that it came to look more and more like a club.
Fewer members became interested in going out on life-saving missions, so they hired professional crews to do that work on their behalf. The life-saving motif was still prevalent on the club emblems and stationary, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club held its initiation meetings for new members.
One day a large ship wrecked off the coast and the hired crews brought in many boatloads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty, bruised, and sick. Some had black, red, yellow, and white skin. The beautiful new club was terribly messed up, and so the property committee immediately had an outside shower house constructed where shipwreck victims could be cleaned up before coming into the clubhouse.
At the next meeting of the executive board, there was a split vote. Most of the members wanted to cease the life-saving missions altogether because it was a hassle to clean up after the shipwrecked people and most importantly they point out it was interfering with the social activities of the life-saving club.
A minority of the members insisted on keeping the life-saving mission as their primary purpose.
The minority was voted down however and told that if they wanted to save lives they could build a life-saving station somewhere else. So they did.
As the years went by, the new station gradually faced the same problems the original life-saving station faced and so a small group of dedicated life-saving people would leave to build another station.
If you visit that coastline today you will see many exclusive clubs along the shore. Shipwrecks still happen there but most of the people drown.
You can look over the American landscape today folks and there are many exclusive clubs that started out as life-saving stations. Today they resemble those missions in name only.
Over the years I’ve become convinced that how you started is not as important as how you finish.
How you finish will depend entirely on your willingness to keep God first in your life.
We see lots of people starting well. The multitudes that followed Jesus in verses 23-25 were certainly full of excitement and enthusiasm for Jesus and His ministry. But did you know that these same multitudes turned on Jesus and demanded He be crucified less than 3 years later?
Are you finishing well or are you falling off the pace?