How We Know, Why We Follow ● Part 3 | "Lifetime Invitation"

You never know what hangs in the balance of an invitation. We’ve been invited to something amazing, and how we respond to that invitation could be life changing.
  1. Describe a time you didn’t want to go somewhere, but because you went something amazing happened. Or the opposite—you wanted to go but didn’t and you avoided disaster or experienced something greater by staying put.
  2. Have you ever intentionally disregarded something you felt prompted to do? What happened?
  3. Why do you think we hesitate to say yes to certain invitations in life?
  4. What is the next step you should take in life? What do you feel prompted to do?

NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.

So quick question to get us started, and I know the answer is yes, but just to kinda get our head to the game a little bit. So have you ever been invited to something and you said no, and then you regretted it later, like, What? Who showed up? They did what? They won? What, you had front row? It's like, Oh my goodness, I just missed out because... I just should have gone, but you were busy or you had something, kind of a lame excuse, or you weren't excited, then afterwards, it's like, If I could just turn back time, you feel like in some ways you missed not the opportunity of a lifetime, but maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity. And then the other side is, have you ever been invited to something, and at the time, it just felt like more of an obligation than an opportunity, but because of who invited you and your husband's like, Come on, or your wife, or you know, your kids, and it's like, Oh, I don't wanna go, but you went anyway, and then something so amazing happened. Every once in a while when you think back to that moment or that event, whatever it was, you think, Oh my goodness, what if I hadn't gone? You were just so close to missing out on something kind of epic.

I think we've all, to some degree, had those experiences. The big one for me that all that builds up to is when I was in my late 20s, a friend of mine who's actually here today, Gary, invited me to do an event or to show up at an event and participate in an event down at Georgia Tech, down in downtown Atlanta, for those of you not from the area. And as a Monday night, and I had something on Monday night, in fact, I had something every Monday night, I met in a home with some high school students to do a thing. So I told him, No, I can't go. So sometime later, weeks or month later, he asked me again, and I'm like, No, I still can't go. I have something every single Monday night. And then third time, it's like, Andy, won't you to come and participate in this thing? And I'm like, Gary, I have something, I can't ever come to your thing. I have something every monday night. He said, Well, what if we delay it and start it an hour later? I'm like, really? And so honestly, I just felt kind of obligated, it wasn't the event so much, it was this friend of mine who just insisted that I participate and experience this thing. And I'm like, Okay. So I went, and I met a girl, and we've been married 33 years.

Yeah, and thanks to his persistence and the fact that it just... The point of this story is, you never know what hangs in the balance. You never know what hangs in the balance of an invitation. More on that in just a minute. If you haven't been tracking along with us today, we are in part three of our series, Investigating Jesus, how we know and why we follow, how we know and why we follow. And these are really, really big issues, how we know and why we follow. Specifically, how do we know there's anything to the story and the message of Jesus, and why in the world would someone in the 21st century choose to follow a first-century rabbi, day-laborer that was crucified by the empire and became an enemy of His own people? Why in the world would we take anything about Jesus seriously? How do we know? And why do we follow? These are super important questions or issues, the reason being, because the credibility of Christianity, the whole thing, the church, everything that has anything to do with Christianity.

Identity of a single individual, Jesus of Nazareth. This is the whole thing, which means... This is why we're talking about this, which means if you are considering faith, if you are considering Christianity, or if you're leaving faith, if you're leaving Christianity, you got your hand on the door knob, whether you're leaning in or leaning out, the question I would encourage you to wrestle with, because it is really the only question worth wrestling with, is not does God exist? Neither is it, is the Bible true?

The critical question is a question that unfortunately, the church... It's not your fault, it's a question that you haven't been challenged to ask in any kind of critical way or significant way because the church hasn't challenged you to ask it, and that's the fault of people like me, it's the fault of the church. But the issue when it comes to leaning toward faith or moving away from faith, the issue and the question to ask is this question: Is Matthew, Mark, Luke or John a reliable account of actual events?

That's it, it all comes down to this. Is the Gospel, we call them Gospel, the good news of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, these four ancient first century documents that depict the life and teaching of Jesus, if any one of these, not even all of them, if any one of these is a reliable account of actual events, even if it's mostly reliable, then if that's true, then you need to and I need to sit up straight and pay attention. Because at the end of these four accounts of the life of Jesus, they all culminate with the same end, and in the end, there is an event that makes his story worth telling. In fact, without the event at the end of the story, Jesus' story would have never been told because it wouldn't be worth telling. But if these are actual account, or if these are reliable accounts of actual events, then game on. That is the question you should wrestle to the ground. And if you are a Christian, this is the question, and the answer to that question is what we anchor our faith to.

So in this series, we're looking at one of those accounts of the life of Jesus, it's called... We call it The Gospel of Luke, it's named after the person that wrote it, and right up front, the author, Luke, tells us, and this is so important as well, that he's not writing religious literature, this isn't religious literature, he's not writing religious literature. He's basically... Not basically, he is actually documenting someone's life, and turns out he wasn't the only one. Here's how he opens this first-century document that depicts the life and teaching of Jesus, here's how he begins. It's not "once upon a time," or "during the time of the Romans," or "long, long ago in a country far, far away," he begins this way, Many... This is amazing. Many, I'm not the only one, because what happened was so significant, everybody's trying to make sure this gets documented correctly. Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have happened or have been fulfilled among us. So he's not writing 100 years after these events. He's like, No, no, I'm living in the time when these things happen, they happened among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who, from the very first, were eye witnesses of the events...

Or eye witnesses and servants of the word. This is code word for Jesus. So Luke is saying, Look, many people have tried to document what has just happened, I'm one of those, and I wanted to make sure that I got it straight, so I got my information from the eye witnesses, the people who were the main players, the A-players in the events I'm about to describe. He said, So I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, which was... Theophilus was a first century believer who's like, Okay, I'm a Jesus follower, but I have heard so many different accounts in so many different orders, I need somebody to give me a chronological order, tell me... I wanna know the whole story from beginning to end. And so I put this account together so that you... This is so powerful. So that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. In other words, Theophilus, so that you will know you've not been asked to have faith in faith or believe in belief, that these events, these things you've heard, this event, this person you have placed your faith in, it is anchor to something that actually happened, and so I wanna give you an orderly account.

Now again, this is so important. Luke is not writing the Bible. Luke has no idea there will ever be a compilation of manuscripts called the Bible. He's just saying, Here's what happened among us, he's telling us what happened. So at the very beginning of his gospel, he depicts the... He describes the birth of Jesus, and then after that, he introduces us to the warm-up act, the pre-game show. John the baptizer, we talked about John last week and the important question people ask him, and then John introduces all the world... Or specifically, John introduces Jesus to Judea, the region of Judea. And so we're jumping into Luke Chapter 4, Verse 14. Here's what Luke says happened next. News about him... Him being Jesus. News about Him spread through the whole countryside. Everybody's talking about Jesus. Everywhere he went, crowds gather. Jesus was teaching in the synagogues, in their synagogues, and look at this, and everyone praised Him.

This is so important, when Jesus launched his ministry, people liked him, even though they were nothing like Him, and apparently he liked them back so much so that they felt comfortable coming and crowding around and listening. When we're following Jesus correctly, the same will be said about us. Now, interestingly enough, it's in this context, Jesus teaching in synagogues that Luke then introduces us to Jesus' most famous follower, Peter, the fisherman. So here's what happened. After listening to Jesus in the synagogue on a Sabbath, Peter invites Jesus over to his house, apparently for lunch or brunch, we don't know exactly what, and because Peter was married, and so he and his wife hosted Jesus in their home. How cool would that be, right? And when Jesus gets there, he discovers that Peter's wife's mother, Peter's mother-in-law, is living with them and she is ill. And while he's waiting for lunch, Jesus goes... She has this really high fever. Jesus goes in and heals Peter's mother-in-law. Oh my goodness. And word spreads. And so at the end of the day, which was the end of Sabbath, and people felt like they could go out and kind of do things that would be considered work, at the end of the day, here's what happened. As sunset, the people brought...

All the people in this little village brought to Jesus, all who had various kinds of sicknesses, and laying His hands on each one of them, He healed them So, Jesus stays up all night, healing everybody they bring to the door, and then the text says this, At day break, he actually... At daybreak, he left their home and he went to the Sea of Galilee, and a very famous event takes place., and that's what I wanna focus the rest of our time on today.

One day, as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, which is the Sea of Galilee, sea of Galilee is about eight miles wide, about 14 miles long. It's in the Valley. It's sort of the epicenter of a lot of what Jesus did in Galilee. So he's standing there and people were crowding all around him, the text says, listening to, this is interesting as well, the word of God. Now, in our modern Christian world, when we hear the phrase, word of God, we think the Bible. Well, there was no Bible. When Luke talks about the word of God, this is so fascinating, Luke is talking about the words of Jesus, that when Luke wrote this after the resurrection, he has already so equated Jesus with God that he is comfortable equating the words of Jesus with the words of God. So interesting. Anyway, so Jesus is teaching, and He saw at the water's edge, two boats left there by the fishermen who were washing their nets. Now, Luke doesn't give us any detail because everybody that read this in the first century immediately had a picture of what's going on, but we don't live in the first century, so here's what's going on: It's mid-morning, the fishermen fish with nets in the Sea of Galilee. They fished at night because the water was cooler, the fish came to the surface and you could catch fish in a net. And then you would come back in, haul in your fish, you'd have some...

Generally, women would come clean the fish while the men pulled their boats up on shore, pulled the nets out, stretched the nets out on this big wooden rack, so they could dry.

So Jesus sees these two boats, and he goes and he sits down, and one of them, the text says, he got into one of them, the one belonging to Simon Peter, who'd been listening to him teach, who had visited with him in his home, who had healed his mother-in-law. This is not the first interaction, this is not the first conversation, this isn't the first time they met. Jesus knows what he has in store for Peter, and again, he's just been dropping bread crumbs, bread crumbs, bread crumbs. And He asked Peter, He says, Look, if you could just stop working for a minute, get in the boat with me. Let's push off a little from the shore, and then I'm gonna sit down. And then Jesus began to teach from the boat.

And when Jesus finished His sermon, when Jesus had finished speaking, He said to Simon, and most of us know what happens next. This is so important though, for you or for me. He says something unexpected but something that Simon... He asked Simon to do something that Simon is very capable of doing. He asked Simon, we'll call him Peter, 'cause he's Peter the rest of the story. He asked Peter to do something Peter could easily do. It's kind of a baby step. It was a "baby, trust me," step. And he smiles at Peter, and no one can hear this conversation, I guess, but Jesus and Peter. They're still sitting out... Few yards out from the shore. And he says, Peter, with a big smile on his face, here's what I want you to do.

I want you to put out into the deep water, let's get way on out there, and I want you to let down those nets, the ones that they're on the shore that are all cleaned and dried for the evening, and I want us to go fishing. Now, this is completely doable. This isn't impossible. It's doable, it's just unreasonable. And it's costly, and Peter knew it was gonna be a complete waste of time. Simon answered politely. In fact, he says, Master, sign of respect, master, we've worked hard all night and we haven't caught anything.

Translated. We went fishing when you're supposed to go fishing and didn't catch anything, what do you suppose is gonna happen if we go fishing when you're not supposed to go fishing, just wandering? And also Peter's looking at the shoreline, everybody's watching them. But then he thinks to himself, Okay, if anybody else asked me to do this, it's an easy no, but you healed my mother-in-law. Gosh, you healed just about everybody in my town. So, if you wanna go fishing and not catch any fish, okay, what will it hurt? And then he says this, this is where the story intersects with my life, and hopefully with your life. Peter says, but because you say so. Because you say so.

This statement has the potential, I'm not exaggerating, to change the trajectory of your entire life. It does. This is where it all changes, because Jesus wasn't asking Peter to believe something. He was asking him to do something, he was asking him to take a little baby step, this was perfectly within his ability.

And Jesus knew that if Peter would say, yes, that when Peter's faith intersected with God's faithfulness, it would change Peter's life forever. So Peter's like, Well, alright, based on what I know, based on what I've heard, based on what you've done, I will let down the nets. Peter knew just enough to take the next step. But he did not know what hung in the balance of that next step, and neither do you.

 So Luke, continuing the story, summarizes what took a couple of hours to happen. He summarizes it with a single phrase, when they had done so, when they had done so, Peter's like, Okay, so he kinda paddles back over, gets out, Hey guys, hey guys, the nets are rolled out and tied and all, bring them back over guys, we're gonna go fishing.

They're like, We're gonna do what? He's saying like, I know, it's for the rabbi. We're gonna go fishing. [laughter] Jesus, if you would dismiss the crowd, that would make this a lot less embarrassing. They get on the boat and this take... Again, this takes hours, they get everybody on there, then they row out to the middle to the deep water. I mean, this is several miles they probably rode. And then they let down the nets, and then they just wait, and Jesus smiles. And when they head, this is important... Not when they believed so, when they acted on what they suspected, and this is what Luke wants you to understand. This is why Luke wrote the account. This is what Luke wants us to understand, okay? That faith, the way that Jesus talks about faith, is an active faith, it's a living faith.

To experience God in your life, to experience God in my life, it's not just an internal emotional thing that we experience sometimes with songs or dreams or reading something, he says, no, I want you to have an active faith that engages God's activity in your life and in your world, and in your relationships. This is about an active faith, it's about being faithful, which ignites God's life inside of you, and even at times in your circumstances. So when they had done, not believed, when they had done what Jesus asked them to do, they caught... You remember this part, they caught such a large number of fish that the nets began to break. Now, sidebar, why the nature miracles? Because the point of Jesus ministry is not what he taught, it is who He claimed to be.

He was God in a body, so he had authority over nature. He was the master of nature. He was not a reformer, he was not simply a teacher. And suddenly these men who are trapped in the boat with Him realize, Oh my goodness, healing disease is one thing, what in the world, who in the world? When Simon Peter saw this, he cried out, we're rich. We won't have to work for weeks. [laughter] And immediately, Peter offered Jesus a three-year contract, [laughter] 30% commission with no non-compete, [laughter] right? No. [laughter] And Peter saw this. He fell at Jesus' feet, at Jesus' knees. And he said, this is so powerful, go away from me, Lord. Go away from me, Lord. Oh my goodness. Brand new title. Now we're not master, now we're Lord. Go away from me, Lord. Authority, ownership. But why away? Well, Luke tells us, Go away from me, Lord... You're ready for this? Because I am a sinful man.

I know we're just inches apart, but we're nowhere close. Jesus, if you only knew what kinda man I was, and Jesus smiles because he knows, because Peter assumed, Peter assumed that God distanced Himself from sinners, that's what he'd been taught. I mean, the religious leaders certainly distanced themselves from people like Peter, And this, I think is just... I'm just making this part up. I think this is when Luke wants to reach off the pages and grab us by the collar and grab us by the shoulder, and say, This is why I had to tell this story.

Look, this is why I had to tell the story. Not only does God not distance himself from us, God has come near. God came so near that He said to Peter, take me fishing. Luke's like, this is the point. God has not pulled back, God has come near, but he came so near and he was so much like us and people liked him, and he was so likable that he was hard to recognize.

I don't know what you think about God, but this is Jesus' version of God. Jesus who came as God in a body, who came near and Luke's like, it was so remarkable. It was unexpected, it was like nothing we could have ever imagined, and I... This is a story for every generation. Then Jesus said to Simon, don't be you afraid, from now on, and Jesus smiles like, watch this, see what I did there, you're gonna fish for people. See what I did there, Peter, you're gonna fish for people. And Peter is like, well, who is that? He didn't get it right. [laughter] And you know what Peter did? Peter fished for people. Do you know why you know the name Peter? It's not because he was a fisherman, it's because he became a Jesus follower who fished for people, like Jesus told him he would.

And Peter had no idea that's what was on the other side of his decision to take Jesus fishing and to follow Jesus. So, they pulled up their boats onto the shore, and they left everything and they followed Him. And you know what? You would have too, if he had done something like that for you. But here's the gotcha. According to Luke, according to Peter, he did more than that for you. Peter would be quick to say, Look, look, folks, in the future, he did a fish trick for me, and I followed. [laughter] Do you know what He did for you? This was nothing. I was there. Do you know what He's done for you? And then maybe he'd smile and say, You should know because I described it in my letter. Have you read my letter?. And 2000 years later, you have access to my letter. Have you read my letter?

Here's what Peter said when he looked back on the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, and he's trying to put it in words, and Peter was probably illiterate. He probably dictated this to someone to write it for him, here's what he said, as he describes, not a fish trick, but what Jesus of Nazareth did for you and did for me, when they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate. And Peter's like, that's a big deal because I retaliated all the time, even when people were marginally nice to me. And I was there, I was in the crowd in the back, and they hurled insults at Him while he was dying. And he was just the same in that moment as he was every single day with us by the sea of Galilee and in and out of villages and towns, people clawing at him, trying to get around him all the time.

And when He suffered, He made no threats. And then he would say this, have you ever seen a crucifixion? Have you ever smelled a crucifixion? Have you ever seen the aftermath of a crucifixion? It's not just suffering, it's horror, it's torture, it's terror. I mean, everybody else is screaming for their mom and threatening and all kinds of stuff about the Romans and even in that moment, no threats. Instead, I was there, Peter would say, and Luke's like, [0:34:31.9] ____. He did in that moment what he did every other moment of his life in our experience with him. He... This is his word, he entrusted himself to Him, His father, who judges justly. He said, Father, the outcome of this is up to you. Peter's like, I watched this, I couldn't believe it. He was in that moment the way he was every moment, he just trusted his Heavenly Father just as He had invited us to actively, faithfully trust our, his Heavenly Father.

And then Peter would say, but that's not the best part. Here's the part that goes way beyond a fish trick by sea of Galilee. In that moment, He bore your sins in His body on that cross. And Peter would say, Luke would say, That's why you have to follow. That's why he's worth following. That's why we follow. Not because of what He will do for you, because of what He has done for you. Luke wanted us to experience what Peter experienced first-hand through his account, but Luke wants you to know and wants me to know that we too, like Peter had been invited to follow. And as I said earlier, when Peter's simple little act of faith intersected with God's faithfulness, something happened on the inside of him, he would never be the same. And Peter would say, I want you to accept that very same invitation, because when you finally say yes to your Heavenly Father and that little itty-bitty active faith intersects with God's faithless, something's gonna happen on the inside of you as well. There are some invitations that feel more like an obligation than an actual invitation, and following Jesus may feel that way. But if Luke is telling the truth and Peter is telling the truth, nothing could be further from the truth. Following Jesus is gonna be inconvenient, but let me just tell you something, I've been doing this a long time, refusing to follow Jesus is gonna be more inconvenient down the road, I promise you.

But following Jesus is better. It'll be the best decision you ever make. So here's... And with this, so what's your next step?

What is... It's something you can do, or it's something you can choose you're not gonna do, but it's something you have control over. And I don't know what that is for you, but I hope your response will be something like this. But because you say so. Because you say so. It's gonna cost, people are gonna look at me funny. It's not gonna make any sense. I'll never be able to explain this to my friends. I... But because you say so. And you never know what hangs in the balance of that decision. Luke would tell you, Peter would tell you, just trust Him and follow. It is the invitation of a lifetime. It is an invitation that if you accept it, you will never regret that decision. What's your next step? Take it. And we will pick the storyline up next time as we continue our way through the Gospel of Luke and investigating Jesus, how we know and why we follow.

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