(Chp 10) Moment of Undeniable Truth and Irresistible GraceMarch 3, 2008, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee (Luke 5:1-11) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: The Jesus Creed
Preached at a Bilingual (Mandarin-English, Sunday) service
Sermon based on Chapter 10 of Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed
Title: Moment of Undeniable Truth and Irresistible Grace (Luke 5:1-11)
As a pastor, I often wonder about the moments of spiritual change. When does a person transform from a spiritual infant to a spiritual adult? When does a Christian suddenly ‘get it’ and from then on lives his/her life on a different plane? From my observations, spiritual growth occurs in spurts while spiritual decline is gradual. As a pastor, it is hence important to identify the moments of spiritual change and ride along with the wave that divine wind is blowing. In Christianity, we term such moments of spiritual change as a Conversion. A conversion is more than just changing from a non-Christian into a Christian. This is because the change involves more than just a change of status, more than just a difference in what happens after you die. A conversion means that your life, your values, your concerns and your habits are all transformed as well. A conversion is a reorientation. It has got more to do with the things you do differently after the conversion rather than your change in status during the moment of conversion.
What happened to Peter in today’s passage was a conversion. He was transformed from a fisherman into a fisher of men. And there would be more conversions further in his life. During these moments of spiritual change, he transformed from a follower into a church leader, from a coward into an evangelist, from a Jew into a Gentile-lover and eventually became a martyr. I am fascinated by such moments of spiritual change because I have personally experienced such moments and I have witnessed such moments in the lives of other Christians as well. Peter transformed from a fisherman into a fisher of men. Before the conversion, his life was about his daily catches at sea. After the conversion, his life became about the kingdom of God. It is truly miraculous. And I think there is something in this story of conversion that we should all try to explore together today. There is a saying: Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it's the moments that take your breath away. Let this morning be an adventure of looking into such a moment in the life of Peter.
Point 1: Conversion is about meeting Jesus
In the opening lines of the movie Hitch, it says: Basic Principles - no woman wakes up saying "God, I hope I don't get swept off my feet today!" Now, she might say "This is a really bad time for me," or something like "I just need some space," or my personal favorite "I'm really into my career right now." You believe that? Neither does she. You know why? 'Cause she's lying to you, that's why. You understand me? Lying! It's not a bad time for her. She doesn't need any space. And she may be into her career, but what she's really saying is "Uh, get away from me now," or possibly "Try harder, stupid," but which one is it? 60% of all human communication is nonverbal, body language; 30% is your tone, so that means 90% of what you're saying ain't coming out of your mouth. Of course she's going to lie to you! She's a nice person! She doesn't want to hurt your feelings! What else she going to say? She doesn't even know you... yet. Luckily, the fact is that just like the rest of us, even a beautiful woman doesn't know what she wants until she sees it… ... Basic Principles - no matter what, no matter when, no matter who... any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet; he just needs the right broom. I think the man-woman pursuit is quite similar to the God-man pursuit, and when the right connection occurs, conversion happens.
Therefore, in my own understanding, basic principles: no human being wakes up saying “God, I hope I don’t get swept off my feet by you today!”. They might tell you that “Now is not the right time” or “I am not into religion, or I cannot commit more to church, I am into other stuff”. But that is not the entire truth. They may just be saying such things to be nice so that they don’t hurt your feelings. Because they don’t even know what you are talking about … … yet. Luckily, the fact is that just like the rest of us, most people don’t know what they want until they truly see it for what it is. Our job is to allow for the moment to let them see it. So, basic principles – no matter what, no matter when, no matter who… … any human being has the chance to be swept off their feet by God; he/she just needs to be dealt with by the right broom. Deep inside us, we are all waiting, everyday, Christians or non-Christians, to be swept off our feet by God. When it happens, those are the moments of spiritual change. One moment you are living this life, and the next you’re wondering how you ever lived without God. For these moments of conversion to be swept off your feet by God, you just need the right broom.
What is the right broom? Or more specifically, who is the right broom? He is Jesus. I have been wondering to myself what is the difference between Jesus and the magicians I see on TV. I must let you know that the magicians these days are doing some quite freaky stuff no less impressive than the miraculous catch of fish that we read today. But surely we are following Jesus whose miracles we didn’t see, rather than following these magicians whose miracles we can see. Why the difference? It is because he is Jesus. We choose to follow Jesus not because of the nature of the miracle, but because of the person performing the miracle. And because it was Jesus who performed the miraculous catch and it was Jesus who called Peter, Peter was swept off his feet. Not just Peter, but also his brother Andrew and his partners James and John. They left everything and followed Jesus. It was a moment of conversion because they had met Jesus and they were transformed from fishermen into fishers of men. There are two key ingredients about Jesus that makes meeting him a moment of conversion. John puts it this way, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”. There are two factors in an encounter with Jesus that result in a conversion. I phrase it this way: Conversion is about the moment of undeniable truth and the moment of irresistible grace. For Truth and Grace come through Jesus Christ.
Point 2: Conversion is about the Moment of Undeniable Truth
What was the moment of undeniable truth for Peter? Here was the man Jesus before him. Jesus used his boat as a platform to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. So he was not just a magician with fancy tricks. Jesus was one with the Word of God. And he asked Peter to let down the nets for a catch. Peter had worked hard all night without a catch. From his fishing experience, if there was no catch the previous night, there was even less of a chance in the day. But he did it anyway as there was no point in arguing with a holy man, an ex-carpenter without fishing experience. Behold, there was a catch with so much fish, it was beyond what two boats could bear. Immediately, Peter was faced with a moment of undeniable truth. He saw who Jesus was, and who he himself really was. He was a sinner before God. But furthermore, he acknowledged that Jesus is Lord. Jesus was not just the one with a message of good news, he is the message, the good news itself. Sure, Peter could toil and try to be a good fisherman. But ultimately, the result from all catches belonged to the Lord. Upon Jesus’ command, a hopeless try became a bountiful catch. Faced with this moment of undeniable truth, Peter fell at Jesus’ knees and acknowledged that Jesus is Lord and he was a sinful man.
For conversion to happen, we all need to truly meet Jesus and be confronted by this moment of undeniable truth. Truth is God’s reality made clear to us. In our own reality, we are obsessed with our strengths, our limitations, and our problems and successes. But when faced with the truth, we see how God sees us, and we see how God sees the world and we see the world with God inside. I myself have gone through a few such moments of undeniable truth. In my teenage years, there was once I realized after hearing a church camp message how meaningless my life was, and how God is the meaning of life. I was converted and was baptized shortly after. I have shared about my faith crisis in my theological education days where I realized how feeble my knowledge of God was, and how wonderful was his revelation. I was converted once again. In my ministry in Jubilee, I recall another incident where I realized how helpless I was after I went on a visitation, and how the Lord was my strength. I was converted once again. These moments of spiritual change, these conversions, they are moments of undeniable truth. I met Jesus, and I saw who I truly am. And I wish for you to spend time to meet Jesus as well. Perhaps this morning, you can reach a moment of undeniable truth. Who you truly are before God. And who God truly is to you. For Peter, he saw that he was a sinner and Jesus is Lord.
Point 3: Conversion is about the Moment of Irresistible Grace
But conversion is more than just a moment of undeniable truth. Because if it is just truth, it can only make us wallow in self-pity. This is why Peter asked Jesus to leave him. For conversion to happen, the moment of undeniable truth must happen with a moment of irresistible grace. What is grace?
Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker both had churches in London in the 19th century. On one occasion, Parker commented on the poor condition of children admitted to Spurgeon’s orphanage. It was reported to Spurgeon however, that Parker had criticized the orphanage itself.
Spurgeon blasted Parker the next week from the pulpit. The attack was printed in the newspapers and became the talk of the town. People flocked to Parker’s church the next Sunday to hear his rebuttal.
“I understand Dr. Spurgeon is not in his pulpit today, and this is the Sunday they use to take an offering for the orphanage. I suggest we take a love offering here instead.” The crowd was delighted. The ushers had to empty the collection plates three times.
Later that week there was a knock at Parker’s study. It was Spurgeon. “You know Parker, you have practiced grace on me. You have given me not what I deserved, you have given me what I needed.
Grace is being given not what you deserve, but what you truly need. And grace is made irresistible when you realize that this thing that you need, you can never produce it by yourself. Have you ever wondered why Peter left the huge harvest of fish and followed Jesus? Isn’t the point of the miracle to catch lots of fish? Why did Peter give it all up? What happened to all the fishes? Questions like these keep me awake at night. Peter saw the undeniable truth clearly. He was nothing if not for the provision of God. Whether a catch was empty or full was all based on the command of this man Jesus. But now, Jesus is giving him a moment of irresistible grace. Yes Peter, you are nothing. But with me, you will be something, someone who you truly should become. You will be a fisher of men. See the catch you just got? You will be fishing and catching men like that for the kingdom of God. All it takes is obedience and submission to my command. This is not what you deserve based on your own merits. This is what you need to become the man that you were meant to be in the kingdom of God. And it can only come through Jesus. It is irresistible because you realize you have no choice. If this man is not worth following, nobody is.
Basic Principles: Nobody wakes up thinking, “God, I hope I don’t get swept off my feet by you today!” We all yearn for the moments of spiritual change, the conversions that re-orientate and transform our lives. For that to happen, this morning you must truly meet Jesus once again. For Grace and Truth come through Jesus. Moment of Undeniable Truth: who are you and what are you doing with your life? With God standing before you, you now face the reality of your existence. Who are you and what are you doing with your life? But today I also give you a Moment of Irresistible Grace: Jesus is here to give you not what you deserve but what you truly need. If you are like Peter, then today you will no longer be fishing for your livelihood alone, you will be fishing for the kingdom of God. Are you swept off your feet by God? Come follow Jesus.
Luke 5:1–11 (Listen)
5:1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.