IF YOU’RE GOING TO FOLLOW JESUS, you have to leave the fish

OK, to be honest, I wanted to use John Ortberg’s title: IF YOU WANT TO WALK ON WATER, YOU’VE GOT TO GET OUT OF THE BOAT. It’s brilliant, capturing the life of faith in one pithy line. But that’s Ortberg’s title and besides, I’m talking about a different passage of scripture.

The lesson, however, is surely the same: Once you know who Jesus really is, amazement and awe aren’t enough of a response; he calls you to take action. In fact, he calls you to take a risk.

Luke 5:1-11 records the calling of the first disciples, Simon Peter, James and John; partners in a little fishing LLC on the shore of Lake Gennesaret. The beginning of a new adventure came at the end of a depressing shift for the three friends. They’d “worked hard all night,” with nothing to show for it and were cleaning their nets when Jesus asked to borrow a boat to put some distance between himself and the crowd he was teaching. Not being one to lend his boat to a land-lubber, Simon pulled him out a ways and listened as Jesus spoke. No doubt the effect on the rough-hewn fisherman was like that in other places the young rabbi taught: amazement and awe.

That’s when things got interesting.

On finishing his talk, Jesus, who in my imagination must have had a funny grin on his face, looked at Simon and, like a man challenging a friend to a foot race said, “Row out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Put yourself in Simon’s sandals for a minute. You don’t know this guy from Adam. Well, OK, maybe his reputation has preceded him, but today is the first day you’ve ever seen him in person, seen him in action. And yeah, OK, he’s a pretty good teacher. But fish? He doesn’t know a carp from a catfish and he obviously doesn’t know anything about their feeding habits. “Ya see Rabbi,” he says politely, “we fish at night, up to sunrise, because that’s the best time for a catch. In fact we fished all night and got nada.” Hint, hint! I’m tired, my buddies are tired. We have more work to do before we can call it a day, and now you’re asking us for uncompensated overtime. But something in Jesus’ eye, something in his body-language must have moved Simon. “Ok, just because you say so, I’ll let down the nets,” but I know nothing’s gonna happen!

Well, you know the rest of the story. The catch was so big Simon had to call for help to pull it in. More importantly, Simon understood he was in the presence of immeasurable spiritual power. Understandably, he asked to be excused. “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

But Jesus had other plans, plans that would not only change Simon Peter’s life, but the whole world. The catch was that Simon and his partners would have to leave the fish, so to speak. If they were to follow Jesus, they had to leave their boats, leave their home town, leave the only life they knew, leave everything familiar; even leave their livelihood. That’s a tough call for any man.

Here’s the deal. It’s one thing to hear the Word of God and say, “Wow! That was really good. It spoke to me.” It’s another thing entirely to act on what you’ve heard; to so trust the One who is calling you that you will take a risk for him in the land of the familiar, in your boat with your nets on “your” lake. If we do take that step, the likelihood is that we will see something amazing and be compelled to worship. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. We may even be compelled to say, “Please go away, I’m not good enough to hang around you.”

That’s when things will get really interesting. “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” There is no end to what God can do with a repentant man who will put everything on the line to follow him.

So what is Jesus asking you to do this week? Where is he asking you to take a risk? Do it! And watch for what comes next.


How effective are you at overcoming temptation? Americans, on the whole, aren’t very serious about it. In fact, we’re more likely to see temptation as a positive tool in the advertiser’s bag of tricks; something to chuckle about or think hmmm, I’d like one of those, as the commercial fades, rather than run from. But temptation is serious stuff to the spiritually minded because it has marked the beginning of the end of so many good things. Before a family ruins their finances they are tempted to buy more than they can afford. Before a governor betrays his oath he is tempted to justify means by their ends. Before a husband breaks his vows he is tempted to believe that the rules don’t apply to him.

Temptation is serious business indeed.

Perhaps that’s why one of the first things Luke records in the life of Christ is his temptation in the wilderness. It’s helpful to reflect on this as we take our first steps into a new year. Take these four quick observations on Luke 4:1-13 and tuck them away as reminders as you head off into 2015.

First, the temptation took place under devilishly advantageous conditions to the tempter. Jesus was under duress in the desert for an extended time, alone, hungry, and exhausted. We are never more vulnerable than when we are isolated, underfed, and fatigued. We can be in a crowd of hundreds and still be socially isolated; well fed yet emotionally hungry; physically rested yet mentally fatigued. Pay attention to the conditions under which you are operating. The more desert-like your circumstances the more vulnerable you are to temptation.

Second, the appeal of instant gratification can be overwhelming, especially in a time of easy credit. “If you are the Son of God,” the devil said in effect, “what’s in your wallet? Prove it!” Every day we have opportunities to live by feel rather than by faith, to do for ourselves instantly (and on credit) what seems to take too long to do God’s way. The more ability we have, the harder it is to wait for God’s provision, to live on his every word. Jesus took the way of faith, trusting God to meet his needs. So should we.

Third, short-cuts seem best when we want to accomplish tough tasks. I can’t help but hear Darth Vader in the Devil’s offer in verses 5-7, “Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You’ve only begun to discover your power! Join me, and I will complete your training! With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict, and bring order to the galaxy.” How many politicians have fallen for this line, only to find that the alliance they made with a power broker was a devils’ bargain.

Short-cuts to authority to solve problems aren’t limited to politicians. All of us can be tempted to take power that isn’t ours. But as Chuck Swindoll’s recent Facebook post said: “One of the quickest ways to complicate a mess is to jump in with both feet and try to do it all without God.”

Fourth, as frustration and disappointment mount, so does the temptation to manipulate God. The Devil’s taunt to throw himself down was a direct challenge to Jesus about the goodness and love of his Father. “You believe God loves you? God chose you? Make him prove it!”

Times will come in your life and mine, maybe today, maybe this year, when the enemy of souls will whisper doubts in our ears about God’s love for us. When that happens remember to answer back, “No one manipulates God. He is God and we are not.”

Temptation is serious stuff, but it doesn’t have to be the beginning of the end of good things. When it comes your way this year, remember how our Lord handled it, and let it motivate you to trust God more than ever.


I gasped as my web browser opened to its Google News homepage yesterday. 12 KILLED IN SHOOTING AT FRENCH SATIRICAL MAGAZINE, 15 Wounded. I didn’t need to read the rest of the report to learn that the perpetrators were Islamic jihadists. The pattern is all too familiar.  The Fort Hood Massacre, the Boston bombers, the Australian coffee shop shooter, the Canadian Parliament attack, the Oklahoma Islamist who gunned down and then murdered his co-workers, the “honor killings;” the list goes on and on and is clear evidence that the philosophy of the keepers of Quranic Islam has not changed.

“It is written in the Quran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged the Muslim’s authority were sinners, that it was the Muslim’s right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Muslim who should be slain in battle was sure to go to paradise.”*

That quote amplifies the two things that I believe Jesus would say us on a day like today, when 12 more innocent people have been murdered by Muslim jihadists.


Chuck Colson, in a 2006 speech, provided much needed context: In 732, barely a hundred years after the founding of Islam, a very significant battle was fought just outside of Paris at a place called Poitiers. Muslim armies seeking to conquer Europe were stopped. For the next 951 years Crusades were called to throw them back. The Muslims countered until finally, in 1683, the armies of the Ottoman Empire were decisively defeated by Polish and German infantry near Vienna. The date? September 11. Bin Laden didn’t choose that date out of thin air.^

Westerners assume that the conflict we have with Islam began in 2001. It began when Islam was founded and it has never stopped. I think the first thing Jesus would have his people understand is that Islam and its mission to overcome the west is not going away.

The question for us is, how are followers of Jesus to react to this reality? Make up your mind to love people in Islam, even the violent ones, with the love of Christ (Matthew 5:43-48).

I confess that when I hear that there is a man in town trying to start a mosque my immediate reaction is to dislike him. But Jesus tells us otherwise. As a Muslim the man may be an enemy of the gospel. But as a man he is loved by God every bit as much as God loves me. I am to treat him with all of the respect and kindness that I would any Christian.

We aren’t to fear Islam or Muslims. We aren’t to seek revenge for 9-11 or other attacks. Biblically, it is the role of the state to pursue justice and punish evil. As believers we are to seek peace in all of our personal contacts, to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:17-21).

The second thing I think Jesus would tell us is that loving our enemies and seeking peace doesn’t mean being naïve. I think he would tell us to:

Just before sending the twelve apostles on a mission trip Jesus warned them not to be naïve. He also told them not to be afraid to speak the truth no matter what the cost (Matthew 10:16-28). Paul did essentially the same thing with his protégé Timothy. “Be on your guard…” (2 Timothy 4:14-15). We need to be on our guard against the mission and the mandate of Islam.

Most Muslims are like most other religious people in the world: they are concerned with making a living, educating their children, worshiping their god and keeping food on the table. But the keepers of Quranic Islam, the conservatives who insist on implementing Sharia, aren’t interested in assimilating into Western culture on an equal footing with other religions.

Omar Ahmed, the founder of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim “civil liberties” group in the United States said:

“Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.”**

Many westerners in government and in churches are being foolish about Quranic Islam. They are ignoring the slow and steady insurgency of Sharia into our legal system, and creeping Sharia law creates the conditions from which violence springs.

What is Sharia? After Mohammed finished writing the Quran there was a three hundred year long discussion and argument about how it was to be interpreted and applied. That was settled into what is known as the hadith (a kind of official commentary on the Quran) upon which Sharia law is based.

“Sharia is an all-encompassing legalistic structure for the Islamic way of life, determining what is forbidden and what is permitted. It contains detailed instructions for personal daily life and how to practice the pillars of Islam.”^^

The West is making accommodations to Sharia everywhere. What is important to remember about this is that each time Sharia wins a victory, be it in the legislature or the courtroom or academia or business, any attempts to reverse it or question it, any opposition to it, becomes in Islamic thought not a defense of the Constitution, not a matter of freedom of speech and not a defense of religious liberty; it becomes an attack on Islam itself which, according to the Quran, justifies jihad.

And that brings us back to the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Hebdo is an equal opportunity insulter when it comes to religion. It’s what we call freedom of speech. But we are so committed to the idea of multi-culturalism and so afraid of the charge of Islamophobia that we aren’t taking into account the fact that Islam’s intent is to implement Sharia everywhere, not just in mosques. Thus, we aren’t speaking forthrightly about it. These murderers, along with all the other perpetrators of such crimes, were acting in accord with their Quranically informed consciences, pursuing what they saw as their duty under Sharia law. We are fools to believe that appeasement will bring an end to such things. We need to be on guard.

*Abd al-Rahman al-Ajar, personal representative of the Pasha of Tripoli quoted in Michael B. Oren’s Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, pg. 27
^Colson, Chuck; Presentation to the Wilberforce Forum Centurions Program Participants, Given March 4, 2006
**Sookhdeo, Patrick, The CHALLENGE OF ISLAM To the Church and Its Mission, pg. 15; Isaac Publishing. Quoting Lisa Gardiner in “American Muslim Leader Urges Faithful to Spread the Word,” San Ramon Valley (CA) Herald, July 4, 1998.
^^ Ibid, p. 25.