Moving Beyond Belief

first time fishing

Read Luke 5:1-11

Oswald Chambers wrote:  “There is a difference between devotion to principles and devotion to a person. Hundreds of people today are devoting themselves to phases of truth, to causes. Jesus Christ never asks us to devote ourselves to a cause or a creed; he asks us to devote ourselves to him.”  At no place in the scripture is Chamber’s observation better illustrated than in the passage for today’s lesson.

Prior to this story from Luke 5, Jesus had been conducting his ministry alone.  Certainly large crowds had accompanied him as he traveled.  Yet none had stepped beyond the reception of Jesus teachings to actual devotion to Him. None had become his disciples.

As the story begins, Jesus is teaching the multitudes about the Kingdom of God.  His platform had been Simon’s fishing boat, pushed slightly off shore.  Alone the shoreline the people listened as Jesus spoke.  Following his address, Jesus instructed Simon to push farther out into deeper water to do some fishing.  Reluctantly Simon consented to Jesus request.  It only took a few moments for Simon’s  boat to become filled with so many fish that it began to sink.  What’s amazing about this story, however, is not the terrific catch of fish.  What’s amazing is the powerful way in which Simon’s life is caught by the kingdom and transformed by the power of God’s grace. Rather than simple devotion to the cause of Christ, Simon beaome devoted to Christ himself.  The challenge of this passage is for each of us—like Simon—to move beyond fascination with and support of Christ to actual devotion to him.  It is the challenge to stop believing in Jesus and to instead fall in love with Jesus.

This paradigm shift was not easy for Simon—nor will it be easy for us.  You see such a shift comes when we stand before Christ recognizing our inadequacies.  Up till that point, Simon thought he was the best fisherman in the region.  He knew when to fish, how to fish, and how to turn a profit in the fishing business.  Listening to Jesus was nothing more than a pleasant distraction—like church attendance can so often be for many of us.  Simon listened to Jesus.  Simon even respected the values and morals of which Jesus spoke, but nothing more.  In the miracle of the catch, however, Simon realized that Jesus was not just a good preacher and noble teacher—he was God’s anointed Messiah. “Go away from me, Lord,” he said, “for I am a sinful man!” (v. 8).

Church attendance and membership often has a way of causing us to feel justified—as though we’ve got everything under control.  When we experience a genuine, intimate and personal encounter with Christ, however, the result will always lead to a realization of our unworthiness.  We will echo the sentiments of Simon: “Depart from me! I am sinful, O Lord.”

Now it would be awful for us if our encounter with Christ ended with merely the realization of our unworthiness.  While the recognition of our sin and failure is a natural by-product of an encounter with Christ, so is the assurance of God’s loving grace.  Jesus offers these assuring words following Simon’s declaration of his unworthiness.  Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid!”  In the presence of God’s grace and mercy, the fear of condemnation is removed.  This assurance is repeated on numerous occasions throughout the New Testament.

The work of grace, however, does not end with the assurance of forgiveness.  Following Simon’s confession of his unworthiness and Jesus assurance that Simon has nothing to fear, Jesus proceeded to offer Simon a call to ministry.  Simon—and each of us—are invited to move beyond mere belief.  The work of grace does not end with the extension of God’s mercy.  That’s only the first step of a wonderful new adventure. Jesus says, “From now on you will not catch fish, but people!”

Following this encounter with Christ, Simon and the others pulled their boats ashore and left everything to follow him!  Meeting Jesus revolutionized their values and rearranged their priorities.  Their lives were changed!  In what ways has the work of grace brought revolution to your life?

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