Monday, January 23, 2012

Sermon on Mark 1:14-20, for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, "Fishers of Men"

Sermon Outline: 
1.      Jesus calls the first disciples. Ordinary, fisherman, at their occupation, uses their talents in a new endeavor. Not prominent teachers of the law, Pharisees or priests He encountered. Not powerful politicians, judges, or military commanders (although in time, they would follow the fishermen, tax collectors, and other commoners who came to call Jesus as Lord). He could have come for the rich, the powerful, and the intelligent, and the poor and the common would have remained the “have-nots” in more way than one. But instead He came to proclaim good news to the poor, and to use ordinary men to carry and spread His message. So that the exceeding power of God might be seen, rather than the glory of men. You too are called from whatever station or position in life you may be. Come! Follow Jesus!
2.      Some men may also have the call to leave their profession for full-time service to Christ as a pastor. Have you felt that call? Many others may have the call to teaching, mission work, mercy service, or other ways to be “fishers of men.” All of us can support the work of missionaries. But every time anyone of us tells somebody else the good news about Jesus—how He died for our sins and rose for our life, we too are casting God’s net. “fishers of men.”
3.      Net of God’s grace and love. Spread when the Gospel/good news of God is proclaimed throughout the world. The message that goes out is one of repentance and forgiveness—turn away from your sin, have a change of heart. Receive God’s free gift of forgiveness. Believe what Jesus did.
4.      Full net of fish being hauled out of the water. Flopping, struggling to breathe. Imagine—coming into air, terrified, unable to get oxygen—die out of the water. From natural environment, to leave is death. Our original spiritual environment of sin, however, to stay is death. Unlike a fish remaining in water, if we’re left in our “sinful state” we will die in it. But coming out of it also involves a “death.” When Jesus has us drawn up in His net, carried out of sin by His cross, we die with Him in the cross. That is our old sinful nature, that part of us that clings to sin and flops and struggles against coming up into the air of God’s new life, dies in our baptism into Christ Jesus. We die with Christ in baptism, drawn up in His nets.
5.      “Above the surface” in the air of God’s forgiveness and new life; a struggle, longing for the old familiar environs of sin. Want what’s familiar, comfortable. A conscience that did not know its sin. Israelites—freed from slavery in Egypt, but after a short trip into the desert with Moses, decided that they were better off slaves in Egypt; vegetables and food they craved. But after we’ve coughed, gasped and spluttered, we realize that we can in fact breathe “up here” because God’s Spirit is breath and He is Life. We realize that God has “netted us” for salvation because it is only in Him that we can truly live and breathe, and not die.
6.      A fish, on its own, cannot stay above the surface of the water. Leap; even glide for a short time, but cannot take up residence in the air, soar into the clouds, or transform their “lifestyle” to live “above the surface.” Likewise, we as sinners, who live in our sinful nature, cannot on our own transport ourselves out of our sinful existence and into the new life “above the surface” that God gives. Only in Christ Jesus can we die to our old sinful nature and find our new life that is hidden with Christ in God. Completely by the grace of God > die to old sinful nature and ways, and repent or return to the Lord. New life is out of reach unless first netted by Christ.
7.      The call to faith in Jesus Christ, pulls us “above the surface” and gives us a new perspective on life. Spiritual perspective, enlightened by God’s Word. Present form of this world is passing away (1 Cor. 7:31). Temporary nature of our lives, and see through the earthly “props” of this life that will ultimately give way. Only God’s Word is sure, certain, and unchanging, eternal. See sin for what it is. See how great the distance was between God and us, and Christ entering that gap, bringing us back to Him. We begin to see how great His love for us is, and how He has showered blessing upon those who believe. Perspective of faith.
8.      We begin to see His reign, which is hidden from our eyes. Jesus proclaimed the “kingdom of God is at hand!” The reign of earthly kings (rulers) is visible through flags, national borders, ID cards, passports, language and other markings. But God’s kingdom is not visible to the naked eye in this way. No visible borders. No single language. No single custom of dress or clothing worn by Christians. You could not stand on a balcony at a crowded airport or sports stadium and identify who were the Christians and who were not. The reign of Jesus as King in individual lives and hearts is hidden from our eyes. Yet there are “marks of the Church” by which we can identify the visible church of Christ on earth. And those marks, given and established by Christ Himself, are the pure teaching of His gospel (good news) and the correct administering of the Sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Where these are present, there is the visible sign or mark of God’s kingdom present here on earth. It is a mark of God’s reign among us. They are where we find His “embassy.”
9.      As disciples went out casting nets for the Gospel, as you have been hauled up in the nets of God’s grace and love, you have heard that gospel proclamation, that good news message. Jesus said it to you as well! “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The time. Now is the time. Now is your day of salvation. You are in God’s net because God has sought you out and proclaimed His kingdom, His reign to you. His kingdom calls for a response. Repent and believe in the Gospel. Return to the Lord from your sins. Believe in what Jesus has done for you. God has already done everything for you. This net which has captured you is not for your destruction as a fish out of water, but it is for your eternal salvation, caught for life everlasting in Jesus Christ. Believe the good news!

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      The word “gospel” means “good news.” What makes God’s gospel message so great for us? Romans 1:1-6; 16

2.      What “time” had arrived when Jesus came? What time is now here for you? Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 6:2. What was happening, and what urgency did it imply for those who heard the message?

3.      When Jesus found His first disciples, what were they doing? What was their status in society? Why do you think Jesus chose them? How did Paul show in his own life (or that of the apostles) that the power of the Gospel had to come from God, and not from men? 2 Cor. 3:4-6; 4:1-7.

4.      What did it mean for the disciples to become “fishers of men?” What is the “net” that is cast? That net gathers people into what? Matthew 13:47-50. How can we be fishers of men? Where do we see the visible signs of God’s kingdom or reign?

5.      Where can you personally cast God’s net? How do we experience a “death” when we are caught in God’s net? How does it prepare us for real life in Him? Colossians 2:12-14; 3:3-4.

6.      Describe what it means for you to be “caught up” in the net of God’s grace. How might you share this with someone else?

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