Friday, 13 May 2016

The Call of The Mountain: the climb up, always more confession, more obedience

A few years ago I was  in Ghalat, a lovely village about forty minutes from Shiraz. As you leave the main road onto the smaller one that will take you to the village you notice the mountains. As you get nearer, the mountain stands above you, looking down on you. You start to enjoy the sound of the river flowing from the mountain, the cool of the shade of the many sycamore trees that grow, and of course soon you are eating wonderful Iranian food. Then there’s the siesta. Then you wake up to have water-melon. But always the mountain is there. Silent. But not silent. It is sort of calling you. And there’s something inside you that wants to go, to leave the warmth of the village, to climb the mountain.

Every human being knows the call of the mountain. For it is the call of God. There is a yearning inside each one of us to leave our small lives and to start climbing to meet God.

While we were staying in Ghalat, a Ghalati, Agayeh Sharifian said to me one afternoon. Agaye Tom, do you want to climb the mountain tomorrow? Yes please I said. The next day I was fast asleep, it must have been about five in the morning...wake up, we need to go. What? So early? Oh yes. So we started. And at first it was cool and easy. But then the sun came out. And it was hot. The trail became steeper. About eleven we reached a summit and you think, well that’s brilliant. You enjoy the view, the silence. But then Agaye Sharifian said, we must get going, and on again. Steeper and hotter. But then a more beautiful view. And always Agayeh Sharifian would have another journey for you.

It is like that with God. We feel the call of the mountain. We say we want to go. But when the wake up calls at five o’clock in the morning, we’re not so keen. And then we want it to happen quickly. But it doesn’t. It’s a long journey. There always seems more.

That was certainly the case for an ordinary fisherman back in the time of Jesus. He responded to a call...but it kept on meaning a lot more than he first expected.

Let’s read about when Peter was first called by Jesus

READ LUKE 5: 1 – 11.

We see here an important truth

Christ’s call to us is always for more confession and more obedience.

What are the stages in this call of Christ to Peter in this passage

There are three – first Peter is just happy to be involved; then he has to obey; then he has to leave everything.

Just Involved

First thing Peter does is push Jesus out. He’s doing Christ a favour. Jesus couldn’t preach, he needed a boat to use, Peter’s boat was empty – so that’s not a problem – and all he has to do is give Jesus a push. It’s not really a big deal: he’s not using the boat, he just has to push Jesus out, and wait till he finishes. He might have gone on washing his nets as in the film. In fact he gets a lot more out of it than Jesus does. Jesus is the big preacher – he’s the famous one. Peter must have felt really good – see everyone – Jesus has used my boat to preach on – and look at my big muscles – no problem giving him a big push out there. We all know how important reputation is in all cultures, especially in the East – what people think of you is mega important. So – it was a good day for Peter – he’s already got a reputation for being a pretty good fisherman – and now he’s also the friend of the best preacher in town.

This is a picture of many Christians and people thinking about becoming Christians. Their own world seems to be OK – they are doctors, engineers, whatever – and they’re also Christians or church goers and if their time is free, and if they’ve got some spare cash, and if it’s all convenient – it’s no problem doing a favour for Jesus. In fact it’s pretty good – it helps our reputation.

We’ve all been in this state – we’re casually involved with Jesus because we get something out of it, it’s convenient for us…and Jesus doesn’t condemn us just because we’re getting involved with Him for mixed causes. People usually get involved with Jesus Christ for all the wrong reasons. I became a Christian because I thought I could see the world with a Christian group; I have a friend who became a Christian by going to a disco and chatting up a girl who was a Christian and took him along to church – loads and loads of people get involved with Jesus with the wrong motive. If you’re here today because you just want to be with your friends, or you want to get some advice about how to get on in the UK. No problem. Jesus welcomes you.

And Jesus loves you and wants to take you on. He’s not at all phased by the fact that you might not be here because you’re first priority is Him. He wants to love you as He loved Simon Peter….

Because look at what happened….Peter moved on from being just involved, to obeying Jesus when it wasn’t easy.

The Obeyer

Jesus finishes preaching – and Peter is looking forward to showing off his muscles again and pulling Jesus back in and then they could all go round the back and have a nice cup of coffee together – and Peter was going to smile at all his friends as they saw him hosting Jesus Christ. The next fifteen minutes or so looked pretty rosy.

But Jesus had different plans…He wanted this semi committed guy to be totally committed…

So he gives an order – Peter – come on in, and take the boat out over there where its deep, and put your nets in the water.

Whoa. Suddenly Peter’s mind is scrambling around – there’s his pride, his logic, his reputation – and his spiritual thirst…

His pride said – You’re the fisherman – he’s a carpenter. Tell him – politely – where to go. You let him have your boat – but that doesn’t mean he knows all about fishing. And our pride can say – I’ve come to a Christian meeting – but that doesn’t mean Jesus knows how to run my life. Chashm to Jesus Sundays 10.30 – 12.30 ( depending on the preacher ); listen to number one the rest of the week. That’s the voice of pride.

But how to say that and keep your reputation. Jesus is well – Jesus of Galilee – best preacher in town – pretty famous. And Peter’s been sitting there nodding his head in agreement going Amen Amen – Preach it brother, Hallelujah.

So what’s everyone going to think if he effectively just ignores Jesus’ command. It’s not so simple.

His logic here comes to the rescue  – we were out all night anyway – and caught nothing. And we usually fish at night anyway. So this isn’t logical. And that’s how we can sometimes feel when we feel that small voice inside us very peacefully asking us to do something. We say it’s not logical. It’s not normal.

So pride and logic get together to make the perfect excuse…but then reputation speaks up again…because if Peter follows this line he’s got to admit that they were out all night and didn’t catch anything. That’s a pretty grim confession for a fisherman to make. A few minutes ago he was washing his nets, the perfect picture of the successful entrepreneurial fisherman after a busy night’s work. But now he’s got to tell the whole world – we didn’t catch anything. Not one single fish. Total failure everyone. What’s that going to do for his customer relations. Here’s probably the biggest advertising opportunity the guy’s ever had and he’s going to completely blow it by admitting he can’t catch fish.

We begin to get involved with Jesus – but he pushes us on. He loves us too much to just leave us as bystanders…

There must have been a bit of a pause between Jesus’ command and Peter’s response…

There was pride, logic, and reputation all arguing with each other --- but there was another voice there as well. It was a still small voice – it spoke very gently. Call it the voice of spiritual thirst, the voice of the Holy Spirit, our conscience

We all have this other voice inside us which draws us to confess and obey.

And that’s the voice Peter decided to listen to – so this is what we get a confession and a willingness to obey.

You see he’s started to get involved with Jesus and he’s liked what he’s seen – and he want more. Maybe you’re a bit like Peter was – you’re a Christian – but you’re really just giving Jesus the odd favour when it suits you. And deep down you want to know him more… and you’re saying – well, what do I do -

I’ve no idea what you personally are meant to do – but according to this passage I know exactly what it involves – it involves – confessing and obeying.

Because that’s what we’ve got here from Peter -

The confession that his fishing isn’t successful.

The obedience of doing exactly what Jesus is telling him to do.

We like to give to the world the appearance that everything is going OK – but it’s not. Inside we can be falling apart. There’s the pressure of business, school, family – and the bottom line is – we feel our life isn’t going anywhere. We’re not catching any fish. We’ve been out there all night, and caught nothing. It’s been lonely, it’s been cold, it’s been frustrating, it’s been dark – and now Jesus is calling us to confess we can’t run are own lives that well. To get it into the open like Peter did – if you want to go on with Jesus, forget your reputation – he’ll take care of that – but be like Peter – admit that things aren’t going well.

And then he obeyed.

Someone once wrote that there’s more power in a minute’s worth of obeying than in hours and hours of trying to do things our own way.

That’s certainly true here.

Peter obeys. His job was to get that net out and that’s what he did. Notice how he doesn’t say I’ll do it after x y or z; or I’ll put it in my diary to look at. He gets on and does it. The important word here is doing – that’s what obedience is about. Doing.

I’ve no idea what net Jesus is calling you to put out – but He is. He is here today and He has business with people who are Christians and people who are just involved. He wants you to do something – to do something that He’s told you to do. Other people might not think it’s normal – but you know deep in your heart that this is what Jesus Christ wants you to do. It might be phoning someone up to tell them you’ve become a Christian, it might be making sure you have family prayers every day in your home; it might be putting your name down for a baptism class or the new class; it might be asking Sam or one of the elders if there’s anything you can do to help; it might be something very personal.

I remember once a very simple experience. I wasn’t yet a Christian – but I was involved. A Christian had come to my house and prayed for me. That was all. After he left, I was going to go down the pub as normal. I thought I’d soon be laughing and drinking and smoking with all my friends and this Jesus business would fizzle away. So I put my coat on and started to go out. When I got to the hall, I just had this feeling that I didn’t have to go…I could stay and read some of the books this guy had given me…there was a battle. But I stayed – it was well worth it. It’s the simple decisions like this that make all the difference.

It was well worth Peter obeying – and all his fears about his business being ruined by his confession must have seemed stupid and he and his mates hauled in the massive catch…

And many of us here have had this experience – of confessing and obeying and seeing incredible blessing in our life. That’s God’s way.

But the amazing thing is that’s not the end. God doesn’t just want to give Peter a lot of fish. He wants to give him a ministry. He wants to give him people.

Stage one Peter is just involved; stage two he obeys; and now we want to look at stage three, he leaves everything to follow Jesus.

And it all happens through confession and obedience...because Christ’s call for us is always for more confession and obedience.

Leaving everything

Peter sees all these fish coming in and instead of dreaming of opening up fish and chip shops throughout Galilee – he freaks out. To put it bluntly he realises that Jesus isn’t just another teacher – He is Holy. He is God in the Flesh.

His spiritual thirst has been more than met – now he’s in a different realm – Jesus has taken him from being just a casual net washing observer, to someone who obeys his commands – but now Jesus is standing there wanting more. He wants Peter to follow him completely – no more fishing – and no carpentry – He wants Peter to start working with Him – and Peter has another choice to make.

How can he Peter work with Jesus Christ? How can he get more involved with Jesus Christ? Peter is not holy –Peter is sinful. Peter has done things and seen things he’s ashamed of. Peter has said things which are filthy. In short – Peter is sinful. At the start of the story Peter thought he was OK – couldn’t catch fish – but as a person he was OK. So he was happy to come to Christ to get his life sorted out. And Christ was happy to help him. With the sort of catch Peter had he wouldn’t have to go fishing for a long time.

And that’s how a lot of us are – we become Christians and wow do things get better – we’re smiling more, we’re doing better at work. We change. And we think that Jesus has done a sort of clean up job on us – but then, as with Peter – we get a glimpse of how holy Jesus is. It makes us feel a bit shaky. And we realise that he’s calling us on – to confess again, and to obey again

And the confession is this: I am a sinful man – I am a sinful woman.

How does Christ respond to that confession – ‘Don’t be afraid…’ – now Jesus knows that Peter is afraid, now he knows that Peter is aware of his sinfulness, and Jesus says, ‘Don’t be afraid’. How can Jesus say don’t be afraid? God is holy and Peter is sinful and Jesus says, ‘Don’t be afraid’? The Bible says the soul that sins will die, and Jesus says Don’t be afraid. The Bible says the wages of sin is death. And Jesus says don’t be afraid? Jesus himself said if you lust or have hatred in your heart you will go to hell. How can he say to Peter – a sinful man – don’t be afraid?

Because Christ knew he would die in Peter’s place; because Christ knew he would go to hell instead of Peter; because Christ knew that he would take all the wrath of God for Peter on the cross. He knew the price would be paid.

God can work with man because Jesus Christ has died.

And in those words, ‘Don’t be afraid’ Peter sensed the love and compassion of God.

Jesus did not want Peter to follow him so Peter could be forgiven of all his sins; no Jesus wanted Peter to follow him because Jesus had forgiven him.

Peter confesses and knows Christ’s forgiveness. He experiences the love of God in the cross of Christ...and because he confesses, because he feels this incredible love from God to him, so he obeys...he confesses and obeys...he leaves EVERYTIHNG and followed him.

Has that happened to you...have you seen that Christ has given everything for you, so you want to give everything to him...and it’s obvious, that you have, people talk about know Fatimeh, before she became a Christian she was only thinking about how to make lots of money and making herself look pretty, after she became a Christian her whole direction changed...she wanted to serve others.


Quite a call this. Peter starts the morning as a casual on looker. He ends it a total follower of Jesus Christ. The whole direction of his life changes.

I wonder where you are this morning.

Are you a casual observer, happy to push out a boat for Jesus. Praise God. That’s great. You are not his enemy. You have a love for him. But....there’s more...and that more means you have to admit you have caught nothing, that life isn’t going that well, and you are ready to obey whatever Christ has told you to do...and then he has more...he wants you to leave everything to follow him. Everything. He doesn’t want anything in your life competing with Him.

This is the call of the mountain. When we respond we climb. It is hard...but at the end, there is such beauty. Let's climb that mountain.

Christ’s call to us always involves confession and obedience.

Let’s pray

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