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, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 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. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 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. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 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.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Being a disciple of Jesus is a life long process. As long as we remain in these bodies, corruption remains with us. We are always in a state of becoming a disciple, always moving forward, even if it sometimes is incremental and imperceptible to ourselves.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Our part in discipleship is to press on, to not become spiritually complacent or to trust in yesterday’s repentance and obedience. As Paul wrote, again in his letter to the Philippians,
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
The truth is, God is always faithful, but I am not. If you’re like me, and I suspect you are, sometimes I am being a disciple, and sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I say Lord, “I’ve already fished over there and then I go back to cleaning my nets.” Forgive that person again Lord? Forbear with that persons faults again Lord? Talk to that person about you again Lord?
“Lord I’ve already tried that and it didn’t work”
But this is where being a disciple really begins. When we come to a place where we begin to obey the Lord Jesus, because He is the Lord Jesus. Not because we enjoy the results, or it serves us in some capacity, but simply because Jesus is our master and He says to do it. You can almost see Peter and the others, weary from a long night of fishing and catching nothing, let out a deep tired groan, roll there eyes and say, ”Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” Had Peter never uttered the words that come after this phrase, it is likely that Peter, James, and John would have spent the rest of their life as fishermen. But their obedience to Jesus’ Word, simply because it was Jesus’ Word, lead to two very important things for these men. First, it lead to a revelation that Jesus was profoundly different from them.
And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 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. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.”
Faith in their Master lead them to obedience, obedience to their Master lead them to deeper faith, and deeper faith lead them to a deeper revelation. Before this event they believed He was a great Rabbi, they had some faith in Him, but they had not yet seen Him as one profoundly different from all other Rabbis. But after their obedience a realization came that He was so much more than a good teacher.
Second, their faith-filled obedience made them useful in the Master’s hands for the future. Instead of earthly fishermen they would become “fishers of men” for the Kingdom.
And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
This is not a promise of enticement, but a reward for their faith-filled obedience. Experiencing the Gospel as a disciple should (while in the process of obeying their master), produces some unexpected results in Peter and the others. They become unconcerned with their fishing, their boats, their dreams of taking over the family business, their amazing catch of fish, the market place, in Peter’s case even his wife. They forsook all from that point on and followed Jesus.
Now being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t always end with you leaving dad standing in a boat wondering what he is going to do with all these fish, and who is going to help him with the boats. But it does mean that your apprenticeship to Jesus, your relationship to Him as a disciple, takes precedence over everything else in you life. And your obedience to Him does not come out of a motivation to receive the benefits of following Jesus, it is motivated out of love for your Master who has shown to you ultimate love, by calling you a friend and laying down His life for you. We obey the Lord Jesus for who He is, most of the time there is no earthly benefit, much of the time there is even suffering in our obedience. This is being a disciple, following not for benefit, but out of love. Obeying not for what Jesus gives to you, but because of who He is. One is a hireling (motivated by benefit) and one is part of the flock (following the Shepherd).
This is why discipleship is at such a low in ebb in the Church in America. We’ve made hirelings, not disciples. We are geared to meet felt needs, to make better parents, better children, and better people. We entice people to come to church by saying Jesus will fix all your problems and make everything better. The only problem is that God uses obedience, suffering, and death to conform us into the image of His Son. Why? Because this was the very same path the Son walked in order to accomplish our Redemption. This is the Gospel. There can be no road to new life (resurrection) that doesn’t go through the cross. There is no road of obedience to the Father that doesn’t take you to the cross. Without the cross, Jesus never ascends and takes our hearts right into the presence of God. There is no presence of God in your life without the Cross. The grace of God is offered to us freely in Christ Jesus. The love of God is lavished on us freely in Christ Jesus. But in receiving Jesus you received Him as Master, and the Master’s Way, the Gospel Way, is the Way we must now walk. This is the path of a disciple. This is being a disciple.